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Mindful : February 2016
self. It’s the seed of any accurate act, choice, or perception. How else except by the gate of mind- fulness would one image rather than another come into a poem? How could I hear the next words arising except by attending closely, with- out any pre-judgment, to my own experience, to the flow of emotions, associations, breath, and pulse? And how, without awareness of my own opening transformation or its absence, could I know whether or not a poem has illuminated some turning discover y? What do you mean by a “turning discovery”? Poetry prompts insight and awakening by allow- ing, inviting surprise. The spill of unexpected connection trips us into new ways of seeing and feeling. Poems live by and for these connections. They’re the fireflies of awareness—you never know what you’ll see next, but it will bring a mysterious brightness to a place that until then was dark. Isn’t that the role of imagination whether one is a poet or not? Of course what’s found in poetry isn’t found only in poetry. There’s no human being who doesn’t dream. We don’t yet know why this plunge into dream-mind and its freedoms is needed, but we do know that imagination is as necessary as air. A person deprived of dreaming will go mad. Imagination is how a sense of possibility enters our lives. A life without playfulness, experimen- tation, and story-trying would be unbearably hopeless and narrow. Imagination is also some large part of the ladder that intelligence climbs... and compassion, also. It’s how we know what Imagination is as necessary as air. A person deprived of dreaming will go mad. Without playfulness, experimentation, and story-trying, life would be hopeless and narrow. Mark Matousek is an award-winning author of five books, including When You’re Falling, Dive and Ethical Wisdom: The Search for a Moral Life. He writes regularly for numerous national magazines and websites and has contributed to many literary anthologies. others’ lives are like. Imagination is as essential for our human lives as any of our other senses. Human beings are born hung ry for beauty. It’s part of our evolutionary wiring. How does this hunger—to bring beauty into the world—contrib- ute to a sense of personal meaning, do you think? Our lives—our sustenance—are borrowed from existence for a few moments, and that is a life. If the body’s task is to turn food, air, and water into heartbeat and muscle, perhaps the psyche’s task is to turn time into beauty and meaning. Into story, image, music, and dance. For all our capacities for destruction, we are a generous spe- cies. We want to make things better. I think each person may have—perhaps from birth, perhaps ripening later—a tilt toward what they alone can best add to the storehouse of our shared well-be- ing. Some teach meditation, cook, raise children, raise food. Some lobby on behalf of wilderness and voiceless creatures. Some make coats. Some find ways to give coats to people who need them. I make words. I hope they help those who have helped me by what they’ve given. When a young writer comes to you for advice, what do you tell her? To attend first to the poems and poetry itself. I’m one of the few who suggests to young people to be slow to publish, to be slow to engage in a realm where your poems are evaluated by others. What matters most is the concentrated, ever-deepening conversation you have with the work itself, the joy you feel both in poetry’s making, and in reading poems by others. Then, I have one more piece of advice: Try to open the window a few inches more than is comfortable. Expose yourself to whatever in your life and in this world you can open to. Try to keep the window unlatched more than feels safe. Only a person willing to be vulnerable, willing to be overwhelmed, even to fail, can find the almost-inexpressible and newly made discovery that is yours, and yours alone, to see, to feel, to say. ● Both prolific and highly acclaimed, Jane Hirshfied has quietly spoken volumes, and her books could form their own shelf in home libraries (and they do). Here’s a selection: February 2016 mindful 37