Poetry begins with stillness.
This doesn’t mean you have to meditate for hours, or practice any particular training or discipline. Stillness is simply a moment that takes you by surprise – a funny remark, a slice of apple, a curtain of snow blowing off the trees during a winter storm.
Visual or tactile, long-sought or unbidden, grand or tiny: the dime on which we turn from our usual busy-ness to a startled stillness can be anything. …And sometimes, out of those moments, we’re inspired to create – a poem, a painting, a new approach to an old problem.
Thomas Keating said:
“God’s first language is silence. Everything else is a translation.”
That’s what a poem is. That’s what a painting is. It’s a translation of that silent, still moment that catches us off-guard and transforms us in some way.
And when I haven’t slowed down long enough to embrace that stillness – to notice the shadow-edged footprints of birds in the snow – it’s hard as hell to write a poem. …Unless I write about how hard it is to write a poem when I haven’t stopped still in a very long time.
And since there are only so many of those poems I can write, it’s probably a good idea to slow down a little more often. It’s good for the soul. And maybe even good for the people around me.
For a moment, for a lifetime – it doesn’t matter: stillness transforms.
You can see more of Rodney MacIver’s work – and receive daily images by email – at his website.