I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. Oh, whom am I kidding? You know I think about death all the time; it is my writerly obsession. No, it is my life obsession; continuously wondering what kind of life am I living and will I make some sort of difference not only in this world, but even in one person’s life, before I die?
As you may or may not know, whenever I get in these type of moods (Yes, I shall call them moods) where I’m feeling particularly engrossed with death there are certain things I do.
1) I’ll listen to my “feelin’ ya” playlist with songs that remind me of certain losses I’ve experienced. Don’t ask me why but I feel most at ease listening to these songs. I can get lost in them and forget the world outside me exists. Weird, right? Who would be calmed by death in this way? Well, think about it – think about flowers or fruit that you cut and give to someone or pull off a tree and eat – those are death and sweetness wrapped into one! Who would have imagined, death could be so delicious and tender as eating an overly ripe pear or a freshly cut flower – beauty and death wrapped into one. Anyway, these songs and I are always in medias res (in the middle of a conversation) so it is never awkward – it doesn’t take me awhile to “get started” – I’m simply able to jump right back in and write.
2) I turn off my phone.
3) I’ll watch the movie Wit based off of Margaret Edson’s play W;t. There is one scene in particular that moves me that discusses John Donne’s Holy Sonnet X.
I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this part of the movie and play. I can take so much from this little section and apply it to my writing.
“The effort must be total for the results to be meaningful.” (I like to think of this when I write to sit down in revision and in the act of writing with my full self “in check” physically, spiritually, mentally giving to the page.)
This section also reminds me of the importance of punctuation. As poets, sometimes we often get caught up or lost in the image, the metaphor, the words, but Donne and the clip reminds us that a comma can carry so much meaning: “Nothing but a breath—a comma—separates life from life everlasting…Life, death. Soul, God. Past, present. Not insuperable barriers, not semicolons, just a comma.” (The song playing in the background of this clip is Arvo Part’s Spiegel Im Spiegel which is also on my playlist!)
I recently came across a TIME essay called “In Praise of the Humble Comma”
I suggest you give it a read. I found the essay particularly helpful because I tend to think of writing (well at least when I’m writing it) as music. This could be because I’m a poet and poetry is meant to be read aloud but I like to think of it as classical music, the kind of songs that can hold a note out for what seems like an eternity, or the ones that pause between notes where the pause feels like the eternity.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
Anyway, back to the TIME essay “In Praise of the Humble Comma” there’s a line in the essay that reads: “Yet punctuation is something more than a culture’s birthmark; it scores the music in our minds, gets our thoughts moving to the rhythm of our hearts.” In this way, punctuation can help us breathe a little, as Wit suggests, as Donne, suggests, as the essay suggests. I believe this is something we can apply to not only poetry or writing, but to our lives.
Ask yourself lately, Dear Reader, when was the last time you took a breath and simply paused?
Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the everyday routine or we become so goal-oriented and focused on plans, the future, that we forget to live in the present. We forget the simple things of the everyday that we should be enjoying. Sometimes we forget to just wake up in the morning and breathe, breathe in a deep breath and be thankful for this life we’ve been given, thankful for the people who are in our lives.
Lastly, several of you have asked to see some of my work. Here’s a clip from my performance at the Church of Beethoven in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I incorporate music and words.
I hope you enjoy it!