keepers of the unsayable

March 31, 2019

If poets are the keepers of the unsayable, then silence, not language, is a poet’s natural element, the realm where the unsayable lives. Poets fetishize silence as much as words; they are disturbed and comforted by the sounds that interrupt it. This is what John Keats means by Negative Capability, his notion of a poet’s basic qualification, the need for ‘being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.’ This a fancy way of describing ambivalence, also a basic qualification for a poet, the ability to passionately hold two opposing feelings at once. Poets need ambivalence in order to acknowledge the unsayable and speak nonetheless. The hidden subject of all poems is the silence that surrounds them, the things that can’t be, that will never be said; a real poem points to everything beyond it.

Craig Morgan Teicher
Ars Poetica: Origin Stories

I want a poetry of knowledge and of thought, not of opinion – and not of belief, which is merely dead thought. Poetry is the musical density of being,  but sometimes it is silent, and sometimes that silence is musically still.

Robert Bringhurst
Pieces of Map, Pieces of Music

your poems

February 23, 2019

Spend time with your poems before you write them. Be patient, if they’re obscure. Calm, if they provoke you. Wait for each one to take shape and reach perfection with its power of language and its power of silence.

Carlos Drummond de Andrade
In Search of Poetry

Poetry is silence

December 30, 2018

Poetry is silence, a silence comparable to an underlying light around me, in me, on the paper. I know that if I lean over my desk, this silence will be summoned to spill forth drop by drop and that, subtly, the sharpened point of the pen will break free of my heart and spread across the expanse the brief trembling of a drawing. Poetry is a drawing that expresses the silence…

Silvia Baron Supervielle
The Lights of Home: A Century of Latin American Writers in Paris trans. Jason Weiss

more of my silence

December 25, 2018

My poems express more of my silence than of my talking. As music is a kind of silence. Sounds are needed for different layers of silence to be highlighted.

Anna Kamieńska
1970

silence and wounds

December 22, 2018

The essence of all poetry is silence and wounds.

[From someone who knows]

How to be a Poet

December 16, 2018

(to remind myself)

i
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

ii
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

iii
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Wendell Berry

mystical ecstasy and death

December 7, 2018

From pure sensation to the intuition of beauty, from pleasure and pain to love and the mystical ecstasy and death — all the things that are fundamental, all the things that, to the human spirit, are most profoundly significant, can only be experienced, not expressed. The rest is always and everywhere silence.

After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.

Aldous Huxley
The Rest Is Silence

What use is knowing anything if no one is around
to watch you know it? Plants reinvent sugar daily
and hardly anyone applauds. Once as a boy I sat
in a corner covering my ears, singing Quranic verse

after Quranic verse. Each syllable was perfect, but only
the lonely rumble in my head gave praise. This is why
we put mirrors in birdcages, why we turn on lamps

to double our shadows. I love my body more
than other bodies. When I sleep next to a man, he becomes
an extension of my own brilliance. Or rather, he becomes
an echo of my own anticlimax. I was delivered

from dying like a gift card sent in lieu of a pound
of flesh. My escape was mundane, voidable. Now
I feed faith to faith, suffer human noise, complain
about this or that heartache. The spirit lives in between

the parts of a name. It is vulnerable only to silence
and forgetting. I am vulnerable to hammers, fire,
and any number of poisons. The dream, then: to erupt
into a sturdier form, like a wild lotus bursting into

its tantrum of blades. There has always been a swarm
of hungry ghosts orbiting my body—even now,
I can feel them plotting in their luminous diamonds

of fog, each eying a rib or a thighbone. They are
arranging their plans like worms preparing
to rise through the soil. They are ready to die
with their kind, dry and stiff above the wet earth.

Kaveh Akbar

Eyes

November 17, 2018

Eyes
deep like blackness
black like catastrophe
catastrophic like silence
silent like howling.

Faraj Bayraqdar
Mirrors of Absence