Certainly the natural world is magical; as magical as we choose to see and feel it. But I know no greater manmade magic than the written word. And I mean the written, not the spoken word—even if, as with poetry, its beginnings were oral and it is ultimately a spoken voice.
To see how words—whether mine or those of an author whose spell I’m under—come together on a page to form meaning that net a greater sense of life is, to me, delightful magic. And if the words are mine and are good, if I have written or am in the process of writing or revising or simply re-reading them, then the magic is palpable; a sensation and sense of fulfilment probably second only to making love.
Perhaps we reach the other world by penetrating the core of this one. Which means phenomena is the soul’s bridge to freedom—which most artists and poets know intuitively. The ultimate freedom being the other side, but all freedoms up to it follow the same route: the one that leads to the heart of what can be touched, seen, smelled, heard, tasted: sensation and sensuality itself. This world, in other words, is our only bridge to what lies beyond it; and the flesh, not the spirit, is the key to spiritual realms.
My sense of the divine and my use of that term has nothing theological about it. It has nothing the god-suckers could grab onto. Nothing to do with any god or gods except metaphorically, which means inasmuch as poetic imagination (which is never literal or didactic) chooses to play around with the ideas and images of godhood as if they were real, but never intending them to be isolated within an ideology or doctrine and made the basis of religious superstition.
In one of my earliest poems, written in Montreal when I lived there in the late 70’s, and long since discarded, I wrote these lines:
the word is the act silent between the lines
Words are impotent to say what is most true about life and death. What we do say is just arrows flying toward wordless—and endless—realities. The arrows fly dropping words, but go on until they are not just out of sight but out of sense . . . beyond logic, understanding, perception and perhaps even conception.
We gather the words those arrows dropped like fallen fruit. Or grapes from which we make the wine we get drunk on. We gather the words, yet live beyond them. That is our ultimate drunkenness, the high that is life’s lowdown. It can be intuited but not explained. Poems are made of it, but it is either beyond poesy or is the wordless poem of poems—inspiring but not expressing since language is incapable of expressing it.
I am not necessarily speaking of anything mystical, just of something that maybe seems like nothing but which the most sensitive and sensitized poets intuit as a sensation, a perception forever elusive yet as much a goad as a grail. Maybe that’s mystical, but then so is being high, feeling ultimate, and realizing we are what we feel. Especially the intimations we feel like feathers and cant put words to, or at least whose object we cant put words to.
The words we put are those we gathered from the flying arrows. We put them in our minds, on our tongues or pages to keep us looking in the direction of the arrow even as we indulge in our own flights and ineffabilities. Not trying to make sense of it all (we’re beyond that), but just to enjoy the ride. It’s good to enjoy the ride. In fact, enjoying the ride just may be the most important thing we do, words or no words.