Amor Fati as Ars Poetic

or… That’s a load of Latin.

“There is thus a will to live without rejecting anything of life, which is the virtue I honor most in this world.”

― Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

I’ve been carrying a moment of self-consciousness since I read the galleys for my most recent book. (Not that recent, I’m afraid). The translator wrote an essay on how he experienced my development as a writer. He labeled the (then) new work as “late period”.

It was a little like reading my own obituary (flattering as it was). And I feared it would trip me up. And it has.

I wrote Friday that nothing has to try to grow. And today I’m thinking that trying to grow is counter-productive. It’s the tennis player suddenly thinking about her strong backhand, and losing it in the analysis.

I can’t speak for others, but I believe art is created through a practice of wu-wei: art as process and experience, not as product and commodity. And this kind of practice is such a far cry from the zeitgeist of knowing one’s passion/calling/brand.

I spent so many years studying craft. Only to find that my best writing is without craft.

Every time I begin to analyse my process, it stops – usually in a cloud of self-consciousness and shame. A woman once commented on my blog after I had begun writing again: “I was wondering where that woman went who wrote letters to her friends.”

I’ve missed writing letters. I’ve missed the easy, unconscious flow of observing and sharing. Each poem a dharma talk, each reader the sangha.

That’s a bit lofty, I know.

This is my letter to the World

That never wrote to Me—

The simple News that Nature told—

With tender Majesty […]

(pull quote formatting centers the text – not my choice and not likely that of Emily Dickinson)

Maybe tennis isn’t the best metaphor to choose. I don’t want to approach writing a competitive sport. When I was younger, an older lover told me not to work so hard. Still, it was years later I realized that sex could be experiential, not performative. I think of the realization as a gift from this aging body: a strange kind of selfless self-centeredness. A koan.

Maybe I’m learning only now that this experiential aspect is also true in terms of art. In terms of all things. I think of it as a gift from the immediacy of the life and death of the world, as it comes closer into view.

I find often that poems I think to throw out are the ones people like best. Poems where I’ve felt I fell short in terms of craft. The metaphors people say speak to them are usually the metaphors I didn’t choose: it was just me questioning, pointing at something I noticed.

I’ve been listening to Stephen Batchelor’s The Art of Solitude. He talks about asking questions, without seeking answers.

This is my new ars poetica.

1 Comment

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  1. I love, and appreciate, your writing SO MUCH. This made me ache … just because of the its beauty, the ideas expressed. It was like the experience of that perfect glass of wine … but wait, there’s an entire bottle of beauty. I raced to the end while wanting to savour it all. I will come back to this, again and again. Thank you for the having the courage to be honest, and to share. I wish I were like you, expressing so powerfully. I shall continue to practice xx

    Liked by 1 person

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