Existence itself is nothing if not an amazement

I’m reading Ten Windows by Jane Hirshfield. It’s a great book, a book to read slowly, to partake in. And it is a text very relevant to my ongoing investigation in the uses of art – listen to this:

Poïesis as making

  • A work of art is not a piece of fruit lifted from a branch: it is a ripening collaboration of artist, receiver, and world.
  • A poem is not the outer event or phenomenon it ostensibly describes, nor is it the feeling or insight it may seem to reveal or evoke. A poem may involve both, but is, more complexly, a living fabrication of new comprehension – “fabrication” meaning, not accidentally, both lie, falsehood, and more simply and fundamentally, anything created and made: the bringing of something freshly into being.
  • Poems lean toward increase of meaning, feeling, and being.
  • The writing of poems must be counted as much a contemplative practice as a communicative one.
  • The desire of monks and mystics is not unlike that of artists: to perceive the extraordinary by changing not the world, but the eyes that look.
Andre-Kertesz-man-reading-002André Kertész

Here is a clip from HuffPost

Q: What is the most important thing to do when reading a poem?

Jane Hirshfield: Listen, without worrying too quickly about whether you understand or not. Give yourself over to a poem the way you give yourself over to your own night dreaming, or to a beloved’s tales of the day. And then, try to listen first to a poem the way you might listen to a piece of music — the meaning of music isn’t some note by note analysis or paraphrase, it’s to find yourself moved.

Q: How does reading poetry change us as people?

Jane Hirshfield: It makes us more permeable, more compassionate, more rigorous, and, in needed ways, smarter. I mean that in the broadest sense: more awake and alert to subtlety and connection, more open to new feelings and new understandings. Empathy with not only people but ants and trees and mountains; sound-work’s lattice, on which surprises of thought can climb; developing the capacity for abiding in the complex and multiple and open — all these things make us smarter.

I don’t, though, want to put forward some idea of poems as primarily useful. Or at least, let me say this: one way poems may be useful is by showing how thin usefulness is.

Andre-Kertesz-circus-perf-007

André Kertész

Good poems restore amazement

5 comments on “Existence itself is nothing if not an amazement

  1. “… to perceive the extraordinary by changing not the world, but the eyes that look.” Inspiring quotes. Interesting how you used them 😉 to ponder on the topic you’ve been exploring, the uses of art.

  2. […] Jane Hirshfield: Many good poems have a kind of window-moment in them–a point at which they change their direction of gaze or thought in a way that suddenly opens a broadened landscape of meaning and feeling. Encountering such a moment, the reader breathes in some new infusion, as steeply perceptible as any physical window’s increase of light, scent, sound, or air. The gesture is one of lifting, unlatching, releasing; mind and attention swing open to newly peeled vistas. […]

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