Posts Tagged ‘beauty’

negative capability, reverse seeing, beauty & the desire for transcendence & unity in life & poetry

February 3, 2019

One day, while Angela “was reading the letters of poet John Keats,” she “received some small insight into this mystery. The young Keats would invest himself so entirely in the books he was reading (and in the lives he was living) he would become one with the creatures and emotions he encountered.” She said “the master poet wrote of—watching the birds outside his window, he would imagine himself scratching and pecking in the gravel alongside them.” She continues with this clear definition of what he called “negative capability”. I’ll underline the essence of it.

This “negative capability” Keats so prized — the impulse to negate The Self and become The Other, to inhabit a state of being perceived outside oneself—had overwhelmed our small son when he first set eyes on his hamsters, amazing little beings he had never seen before. Pierced by their beauty, his capacity to become them was outstripped by his desire, his five impassioned, puzzling words proclaiming the power and lamenting the limits of his imagination.

My response to Haiku: Pierced by Beauty

Lovely post, Angela! I never fully understood Keats’ “negative capability” until I read your clear explanation of it. Thank you. I remember reading what one writing facilitator described as “reverse seeing,” which sounds similar. I was lucky to have had such an experience once, not knowing that’s what it was at the time.

Around 30 years ago, a friend and I drove out to the countryside and ended up at Round Prairie Park. There had been a drought that summer and in a pond stood many large lotus pads. My friend, an artist, took out her sketchbook and started drawing them. I asked for a piece of paper and tried to write a poem about them, but it was nothing worth mentioning.

We had both read “The Secret Life of Plants” and talked about the lotuses and their sensitivity. She resumed sketching, and I tried writing again. Nothing notable. I didn’t realize it, but I was warming up by pre-writing.

At one point I wondered what the lotus pads were feeling about us looking at them. All of a sudden my mind took on a different, heightened perspective. The words came and I quickly wrote them down. When it was over, I looked down at a poem on the page! It was as if it was dictated to me. At that point a bird “blessed” my hand from the tree above me. Nature’s confirmation!

I had later read in The Fairfield Ledger that Sparrowgrass Poetry Forum had put out a call for poems, so I sent it in to their competition. Much to my surprise the poem won an award!

You can read, “Ode to the Artist: Sketching Sketching Lotus Pads at Round Prairie Park” on my blog: https://theuncarvedblog.com/2011/01/16/ode-to-the-artist-a-magical-day-looking-at-lotus-pads/.

I also mention another poem that later came out of that experience. The editor had wanted me to submit a poem for their next publication so I wrote about how some poems come to be written. It was sort of a commentary on the first one. You can read “Sometimes Poetry Happens” on my blog: https://theuncarvedblog.com/2011/01/16/sometimes-poetry-happens-a-poem-about-the-mystery-of-creativity/.

I never planned to write this little epistle, but kept expanding and refining it to get it to this stage. Thank you tweetspeak for this opportunity to share this story about some of my early poetry!

On Old Congress Run Road, a hauntingly beautiful poem by Susan F. Glassmeyer

August 20, 2013

ON OLD CONGRESS RUN ROAD

Susan F. Glassmeyer

A lost Lab running inside her own black shadow,
sideswiped by a car going north on the pike,
then struck by a driver heading south.

I’m an accidental witness on this no-moon night,
busy with my own troubles, like anyone else.
I don’t want to hear the dog’s pinched howl
or her fitful whimpering after she drops
like fallen cargo in the middle of the road.

I want to turn away, but a pressing thought
pulls me over—Don’t be afraid of the suffering.
So I give up, sit down in the street, stopping traffic.
Wrap myself around the furry clock of the dog’s life
as if to stop the stream pouring out of her head.

Not dead, but dying, I tell the onlookers.
I say, Touch her. I say, Don’t be afraid.
A few hands join mine as we follow the rise
and fall of the animal body, the warm belly growing
cooler with each exhalation. Pain appears to be lifting.

Now, under the village lamplight, a stunning
pink foam, almost iridescent, spilling
from dog lungs to dog mouth. Spilling a still life
of wet roses on the dark pavement: blood petals
on our hands, wrists, boots and ankles.

In a slow (call it reverential) movement, Bailey
(her collar says Bailey) arches her spine in an asana
of surrender. Musically sighs. Now dies.

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012

This reminds me of William Stafford’s poem, Traveling through the Dark, but Susan F. Glassmeyer’s poem takes the reader into the fearless heart of compassion. Profoundly beautiful!

Also see I Tell You, a poem by Susan F. Glassmeyer, from The Incomplete Litany of Untold Stories

Read more of her poems in Sixfold Journal’s Poetry Winter 2015.


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