|Illustration by Kai Pannen.|
Those of us who are not poets still face the task of wrestling, shoveling, wrangling and subduing words to do as we would have them do, to speak our truths. Recent experiences with upgrading land lines and internet connections made me acutely aware of being precise about the questions I asked, about verifying what I had been told and then, when bits went awry, of explaining the situation unambiguously to the next representative.
Caring about words can be burdensome. When only THE word will do, not finding it in the memory bank causes distress. Second-best is not good enough in wordville. As a girl, my mother had taken elocution lessons. In those days it seemed to matter more than it currently does whether or not one could speak clearly and confidently. As a result, my sister and I grew up following her patterns of speech. Many a caller on the other end of the phone could not tell one of us from another. It was once pointed out to me that I leave spaces around my words. Yes, I do. Without those space, I am more than capable of just blurting out any old thing, which can happen even with the spaces, but the chances decrease.
My admiration for poets is without limit. They are my magicians, well, along with musicians and those who write songs for they have their own language, a version of words unknown to the uninitiated. There is an aspect of writing that I think of as akin to moving furniture, if one had all the furniture in the world to choose from. Words arranged just so become image, metaphor. What the poets possess, the rest of us aspire to. It is not different than the alchemy of cooking, knowing what a pile of ingredients will taste like when combined. Words have their own alchemy, are their own alchemy, a wizard's tools, the wonder of letters stirred together to make this, Gregory Orr's "lucid meaning." We can always hope.
Rave on words on printed page.