Each year when Spring falls and the trees start to bear again, I find I’m prey to the earworm of a few bars of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, singing an adaptation from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali: “Hidden in the heart of things, you make seeds into sprouts—and hidden in the heart of things, you make buds into flowers—and hidden in the heart of things, you make flowers into edible things.”
At the heart of every being is so much knowledge. Consider everything the human body has to learn just to breathe. How does life know how to carry on with its living? I have often felt that one of the deepest ways to read a poem is to treat each line as a piece of crucial instruction from a compassionate teacher. In this case, the poet is not the teacher—rather, the poem itself is the teacher, to the reader and the poet alike. As Ted Berrigan once compelled us, “Life for the living of it desperately needs your poems.” For the living of it, for the being in it, for the staying with it, for the seeing of it. Poems offer us crucial spaces in which to push our language and our selves beyond the flippant, the cynical, and the cliché, so that we may experience honestly and fully the fraught complexity of what every act of speech has to bear.
The pieces in this Newsletter offer, from disparate angles, provocative descriptions of how innovative writing has this capacity to guide us on the personal level. They also show how the gravity of a text can be utilized as a means of drawing people together—in the classroom, in the bar, in the family, in the streets—with high ambitions for communal reflection and interpersonal address. In whatever sphere you’re feeling moved to direct your thinking this season, whether toward the inner or the outer life (and, who are we kidding these are different planes, right? but perhaps seen from different sides…) I hope these writings play their part in helping drive you there. Let’s trip into this strange mode of compulsion and reflection, hm? As Wendy Xu writes in her essay within,
“Why start. Why write. And all that came out was another poem, the beast must be ridden.”