Shaping An Artist’s Statement

I realized yesterday that I had written a lot of statements about my teaching philosophy in terms of poetry and the arts. But had never really come from the angle of why I write what I write rather than what good poetry is.

I’m a little surprised they really aren’t the same thing at all.

But in the spirit of a candid diary…

The natural world fascinates me. The seemingly altruistic mechanisms of the networks of fungi under the forest floor, and the ticking clocks of the telomeres within our dividing cells that count down each cell’s eventual, individual death—these turn the tables on poetry in my mind. I have to wonder if we are nothing but metaphors and poems written by the universe?

It’s humbling. And stunning.

Every aspect of an inherited language comes from disregarded experiences: the physicality of the word blurt when someone first blurted the word, and the referential physicality of a word like “stunned” and “stunning”.

We use the word stunned far more often than we experience it.

We dispatch and receive every word with the speed of clichès, and I believe it’s the job of poetry to slow us down. To bring us back to our bodies, to the physical world, to new understandings and new questions, not to provide reassurance for concepts we already have tucked into our pockets.

In the 1980s we learned that elephants communicate using a frequency that we humans can’t hear, but they’ve been singing all along. There is so much we don’t know. I can’t speak for the elephants. Or for the trees. Or even for the mysteries of my own body.

But I can and do question it all from my limited point of view. I can explore it all while holding the uncomfortable awareness of my own impermanence.

And I can ask you if we have these experiences in common. I can ask: Is this what it is to be human?

nature poetry, lyric poetry, narrative poetry, deep ecology poetry, buddhist poetry, existentialist poetry