“The Discipline of Seeing”

The day begins cloudy as I find my seat and pick up from yesterday’s reading in my new library book, House of Days by Jay Parini. I found it while scanning the poetry section (811) of a nearby public library, one I hadn’t visited in a while. The normal tour I follow is a stop in the lobby to see what’s new, then onto poetry and maybe, just maybe, up to the second floor fiction in search of authors and titles scribbled onto bits of paper in my purse, the “list” of books I think I might like to read.

I snatched this thin book and a couple of others that met the day’s main criterion of being easy to pop in my day pack. And great is the delight, I’m sure you know, of finding in such a snatch a great dose of poetry, so good, in fact, you think you might just purchase the book. After all, I only buy poetry books I’ve already read: don’t you?

Here are the arresting words from yesterday:

It’s always difficult to hold,

To place a moving landscape in the mind,

Where language feeds upon the given world.[i]

I was sitting in the back middle seat of my blue bus when I read those lines twice and thought about all the language that comes to me and each of us from this “given world.” Indeed, writers, those who aspire and those who’ve “arrived” feed on the sights, sounds and all of life. We move at speed and yes, it is hard to hold the scenes we see as they, too, move in and around us, compelling us to look again, to look deeper, to look beyond.

It’s a joy to sit in the train and not know what will spill out onto the page from the humble life doings that fill my days. Gardening is a bit like it: one goes out, finds a simple task; that leads to another task, and before long half the morning has found attention spent on things in need. If only I could move among the ingredients in my kitchen so creatively!

But for now, I am happy to read one or two more Parini poems before hitting the newspaper and the work tasks of the day. It can be difficult to navigate some of the pain we see in our given world, but we can resolve to keep our eyes open in case anything wants to be born from it.

[i] Parini, Jay. House of Days. New York: Henry Holt, p.12


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