Grace State

I can’t get enough poetry lately. The free-fall, the economy of language, and, as Jane Hirshfield says, “the clarification and magnification of being.”

Today I got to see my writer-cousin Kathy, a wonderful surprise. We talked about writing, and she said, You’re doing it. You’re practicing such mindfulness everyday on your blog. Automatically I become self-effacing, respond doubtfully. Really, though, am I? My 2-year-old was verging on a tantrum and I was distracted. But still, I kept knocking this around the rest of the day. Mindfulness. This writing practice.

Again, Hirshfield: “Here, as elsewhere in life, attentiveness only deepens what it regards.”

This is the line I find most consoling when it comes to the art monster/mama-writer dilemma, when I feel like a time thief alternately staring out the window and typing typing typing. But the more I write, the more I believe in the work of writing and the importance of noticing.

“Every good poem begins in language awake to its own connections — language that hears itself and what is around it, sees itself and what is around it, looks back at those who look into its gaze and knows more perhaps even than we do about who are, what we are. It begins, that is, in the mind and body of concentration.

By concentration, I mean a particular state of awareness: penetrating, unified, and focused, yet also permeable and open. This quality of consciousness, though not easily put into words, is instantly recognizable. Aldous Huxley described it as the moment the doors of perception open; James Joyce called it epiphany. The experience of concentration may be quietly physical — a simple, unexpected sense of deep accord between yourself and everything. It may come as the harvest of long looking and leave us, as it did Wordsworth, a mind thought “too deep for tears.” Within action, it is felt as a grace state: time slows and extends, and a person’s every movement and decision seem to partake of perfection. Concentration can also be placed into things — it radiates undimmed from Vermeer’s paintings, from the small marble figure of a lyre-player from ancient Greece, from a Chinese three-footed bowl — and into musical notes, words, ideas. In the wholeheartedness of concentration, world and self begin to cohere. With that state comes an enlarging: of what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done.”

-Jane Hirshfield, “Poetry and the Mind of Concentration”

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Poetry. Hold it close.

Don’t miss these three new poems by Nick Flynn featured on Buzzfeed. What a world, right? A well-known poet and author releasing new work on Buzzfeed. I love everything about this.

When I studied with Gustaf Sobin, he said you should feel like you’re free-falling through the poem. That’s exactly how I feel when I read Nick Flynn.

Poetry. Hold it close. Hand copy it on lined notebook paper like it’s 1988. Read it out loud to yourself in the cool evening air.

Let it chisel a crack in the dam of your writer’s block.

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