walking on silence

Sometimes reading a poem is like kneading dough. You work your way into it, letting it enter into all the lines and crannies of your skin, adding a few drops of the outside world, an echo of another poet here, a reference to some image there, rubbing the words into and between each other, pushing them together and pulling them apart, feeling the way they give under your pressure. You attack it, pummeling the lines apart, searching for the meaning in there, and then draw it all back together again, folds upon folds of itself, reading and rereading in layers that merge into one another. At the end you have something smoothly whole, something that sits in your head and in your hand, whole and polished, with none of the mess of sticky crumbs and loose powder that you started out with, something that makes perfect sense in voice and words and context, something that you can’t separate back out into its parts again. You read it again, and it pushes back at you when you poke it, healing itself, pleasingly resilient.

Sometimes reading a poem demands that you copy it down, by hand, using ink and pen, following each turn and curve faithfully yourself, a complex labyrinth spelling itself out, in your mind and on the page, letter by letter. Sometimes reading a poem will send one line with you, to carry around glowing brightly, to repeat endlessly, to sing or paint into something else. Sometimes reading a poem is like being almost hit by a car.

Sometimes reading a poem is like an orgasm. Bright bursts of colour bloom on the insides of your eyelids with each idea, leaving afterimages that cloud everything else you see. Your breath catches and then races along to the rhythm, either building measuredly or staccato, it doesn’t really matter. It takes an aeon to read; you can’t believe it’s over already. Sometimes all you want is to go back to the beginning and read it all over again; sometimes you’re spent and shaking; sometimes you’re sinking slowly into the calmness of the womb; the world nothing but a heartbeat and a breath. When you pull yourself out of it, you emerge damp and new-born into a world that’s subtly different than it was when you started reading.


~ by mortarandpestle on March 11, 2008.

3 Responses to “walking on silence”

  1. ooooh…that was delicious. poetry is such a visceral experience for me, you described it so well. I could drown in a good poem. Would love to know some of your faves.


  2. Thank you! I’m trying to list some of them — what are your favourites?

  3. This makes me wish I understood poetry better than I do. I’ve never experienced these things you write about… with music yes, memoir even, but never poetry. Maybe one day we’ll find our place with each other.

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