A poem has an architecture to it. If you put on special reader x-ray vision glasses, you can see the skeleton of it, the internal organization of sound and sense. The typed letters that compose words are a visible manifestation.
Atop and throughout a poem’s skeleton or frame are the flesh and circulatory systems that give it life.
Influenced by Louise Rosenblatt’s reader response theory, I believe a new poem is created when a person breathes it; the artifact of poem reanimates. Like the performance of an actor’s role, each occurrence of shared words varies depending on day, time, events, audience, speaker.
The physical postures of yoga, the asana, are like poems. “Make a shape and breathe into it,” my teacher and friend Michelle instructs. We study diagrams, directions and images of a posture then make it in space. The shapes are molds, casts, patterns. Georg Feuerstein says the “postures are psychophysical templates promoting symmetry, balance, and harmony, as well as inner peace.”
The infinite possibilities of creative expression in yoga keep me returning.
The venerable art never gets old. For example, seated forward bends do not come easily to me. For two years, I’ve made Paschimottanasana an almost daily practice. It feels like that pose has a zillion moving parts. Yesterday, I tried making the shape with the soles of my feet flush against the wall’s baseboard. That small “edit” changed the pose.
Breathing into the intensity (an “ohhh” not “ouch” sensation) called on as much courage as I had to give; the pose became brand-new for me.
That quote attributed to Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”? It’s true. Even if your eyes are closed and you’re toughing it out alone on the floor of your apartment at four o’clock on a hot Saturday afternoon, calling on Breath to be your friend.
I’m a slow poem person. My poems are mostly lyrical observations on the quotidian. It can take 10 years or more to feel ready to share one. My yoga is slow, too. Even when practicing or teaching what might be considered a “flow,” I seek to make the hour a collection of minutes and seconds and moments strung together like water beads. Fully present. Nothing missed. All relational.
I’ve been rereading Jane Hirshfield. She suggests that a poem is itself a compound word, that linked together, in association, the letters and words that form the poem result in another thing.
What is poetry but an attempt at making meaning?
What is asana but an experiment in being?
Walking last evening, Matt, Tucker and I stopped to rest on a bench and look up at the sky. A white bird flew overhead. After a moment, we recognized it as a barn owl, perhaps starting its dusk rounds. Around us, people were carrying bottles of wine to join friends for dinner, toting bags of groceries, walking dogs, hailing taxis, pushing strollers. Trucks, bikes, cars and motorcycles spun past.
Watching an owl’s soundless passage against the darkening sky invites stillness in the viewers, an opportunity to inhabit the shape of being.
I say, Hail the unhurried, quiet arts of poetry and yoga! They are evidence of Why.