“Poetry is language against which we have no defenses.” – David Whyte
I’ve been spending a bit of time with David Whyte lately, catching up on words I ought to have read long ago but wasn’t ready to hear. I was a different person then, more closed to the world despite the outward bravado. You learn who you are through the windy path of words flowing from you onto the page. And then you set them free to find an audience ready for that particular jumble of words to add to their own foundation.
Let the words join
one to another
the way stone nestles on stone,
the way water just leaves
and goes to the sea,
the way your promise
breathes and belongs
with every other promise
the world has ever made.
Now, leave them to go on,
let your words
carry their own life,
without you, let the promise
go with the river.
Have faith. Walk away.
– David Whyte, To Break a Promise (Cúnga Fheichin)
For me releasing the words into the wild is a form of building my own foundation. Each place visited, each poem immersed in, and each mountain climbed is like stone nestled on stone joined together just so as a work very much in progress. Building a life out of adventurous conspiracies and schemes, written down and sent on their way out into the world for you to see.
“The act of writing anything worthwhile always takes place at that strange and sometimes disturbing crossroads where aloneness and intimacy meet… This break of the boundary between what we think is a self and what we think is other than our self is where the rich vein of beauty and insight become a reward in and of itself, and where the words suddenly seem to belong to everyone.” – David Whyte, from the forward of Essentials
Experience and words create that thing that is other than our selves. It’s the building of that puzzle that is our self one piece at a time. What seems a chaotic pile on the table slowly forms into a picture of who we are. The funny thing about a puzzle is you finish and throw it all back in the box and build another picture. You can’t build another part of your identity until you clear the table of the old one.
So which is it? Are words and experience stacked together like a stone wall or foundation, laid to be resilient, or like a puzzle built very much the same way but temporary in nature? That’s one of those forest for the trees questions, isn’t it? The universe views the stacked stones and the stack of words the way it views those jigsaw puzzles on the table. Everything is temporal. Words are like carbon, momentarily ours and one day something else entirely.
I believe we ought to keep stacking words and building new puzzles, but to do it for the joy of the process. To set those words free to fly on their own. Scattered throughout the world to land where they may. To that meeting place between aloneness and intimacy.