The Yoga of Poetry
by Kevin McGrath
IT IS only when one struggles with death—mentally and thoughtfully—that we are given access to true life, for death is the great criterion; anyone who works in fine art soon realises this, the idea or concept of death and not merely physiological demise. As humanists this current time is one of the crucial periods of history that we are now experiencing upon earth and as a poet I would like to describe how it is that I move through such a domain of all creation: how it is that we might conceive of travel and how goodness moves concurrently and simultaneously within our pysche.
For me, all of life has been a pursuit of metaphor or pursuit of the genius of Poetry: in the Americas, in Europa, in Asia, and in Africa, and that kind of progress has always composed my distance. To travel is a means for approaching and for arresting metaphor; look at Joseph Conrad, for instance, the old voyager, and how he attempted throughout his life to understand what he was not.
There are three conditions or virtues in this endeavour. Firstly, without friendship we are but tinkling cymbals, without the love or amity—and I do not mean sexual union with all its precision and sensuous hierarchy—that mimetically joins two individuals so that they replicate each other’s likeness. Without that goodwill of companionship there can be nothing that is true in life for such unbreakable affinity is the primary foundation of our existence.
Then secondly, prayer or meditation or what some might refer to as recitation, are all nominal dimensions of what in Sanskrit is called dhyána or ‘profound reflection’. These conscious actions are central in the advance towards what we consider to be TRUTH and the experience of our mastery of awareness where verbal language cannot go, is not to be reproduced anywhere else in the world. Similarly, the knowledge supplied by these kinds of contemplation is impeccably unique and matchless, unequalled in diurnal and practical life.
Thirdly and paradoxically, in this pursuit solitude is not social but mental and affective and it is there that one secures resilient strength. When nothing exists—and this is difficult to achieve conceptually for it demands pristine discipline and tensile rigour—then we are truly tested and yet we might only then accomplish our vision. Ultimately, if we are certainly free and liberal we might only pray, entering that realm of unwitnessed reflection so that our interior light might become stable. Such truthfulness or veracity is completely tenacious and yet without this persistent resolve nothing can be feasible on earth, not in terms of psychic or spiritual manumission.
Friendship, meditation, and solitude convert us and none of these can be effective without resolute conviction: this is not faith but is founded upon experience and knowledge and that nature of immaterial vision. It is this which I would refer to as the YOGA OF POETRY or the Art of Travel. This certainty is mysterious for it is neither rational nor derived from anything memorable; it is a certitude which cannot be taught nor transmitted for it bears an unusual and inexplicable inevitability about its visual ways.
These three circumstances underlie, integrate, and cause to inhere what becomes acoustically, literally, and aesthetically the place or occurrence of Poetry and its versatile character of human measurement.
In such perfect invocation there is no entity and that is the work, to create and to establish a vision of all potential, unworldly, untimed, and never discrete. This in fact amounts to true love or the single kernel and core of friendship: that fundamental worth of human amity which seeks to exchange but only in terms of giving and not of reception. That is our only firm meaning in mortal life, to give and not to receive, that is the true labour where all effort is to be directed. The transparency of candid Poetry imitates this.
In such action solitude—being that is lone and sole—is not emotional but abstract and ontological, a state where we affirm our cognisance of others and our admission of what we are not. Those who possess or who carry no capacity for despond or despair do not perceive or apprehend this kind of encapsulation or infolding of knowledge, for desperation is simply the initial and personal ground of anything that is exposed and revealed.
So we travel on earth seeking the terrain of Poetry, walking through wilderness and empty landscape or visiting those ancient sites like Dholavira in far-western Gujarat, or Mykenai in the Greek Peloponnese, or the Arawak campsite on eastern Carriacou in the Grenadine Windward Isles, pursuing that authenticity of experience in a form of antique material reality. These are places, strange and vague situations where death is manifold and thoroughly extant to the careful eye. There are women’s bangles made of shell to be picked up from the saline dust or small copper beads and thin chert blades, or tiny obsidian arrow-heads that can be unhidden and disclosed beneath those bloody grey walls about the Lion Gate, or beautiful indented potsherds and ceramic fragments at the waterline where the Atlantic rolls out its long blue visceral waves.
All these rare and disjected objects come to us from millennia ago and can be read for their quiet validity and record of ancient humanity, for in these places we are travelling in time and passing through the unseen tissue and blind gateways of an absolute and unsigned dissolution. That is where Poetry begins, alone in an unaffected and untroubled world where the initial traces of humankind can be raised and admired, particularly for its stains of human loss and grief, in its burial and cremation.
For me, walking has always been a medium of thought and one always approaches those ancient sites on foot and patrols them as a pedestrian, for Poetry has always remained the ultimate medium of travel, the only good yoga that I know and which is practicable: how we move from metaphor to metaphor, usually on foot and walking in regions—the obdurate coast, the blond hills, or alkaline desert—where in solitude there is a stripping away of our intellectual and habitual clothing so that we might receive some few loose grains of the genius of this round earth and sky, where light is actually marked with the invisible signs that take us away from the informed and fungible world and its bounds; for original genius only possesses one power of truth. Think of Charles Darwin as a young mariner, pacing the decks of the Beagle and pondering the qualities of material transition and temporal life.
Before we can comprehend these indications we must abandon our own station and its establishment and this requires terrific individual dominion and a mind that is almost athletic in its ability not simply to reach the margins but to continue further with that veritable exertion: one that is mental and not physical. Friendship is sovereign, like heart-beaten breath, in these circumstances.
Consciousness is our master and neither words nor thoughts go there, only we move in that fashion with Poetry and the yoking of our humanity with its animal strength, with the hawk-eyes of limitless vision; walking among the powdery dust of those chalcolithic cities far out in the desert, where—in the company of friends who are completely unlike ourselves—we share an experience of a passing and indelibly indestructible truth. Who can stand unique in such a sure void?
This is what Poetry attempts to emulate and to reserve for us, engaging various platforms and conversions of metaphor to serve the incidence of perfectly lucid and transparent images of beauty, and to serve them with a near amorous devotion which is able to be clearly victorious even in the presence of death. If we do not perceive that presence then we cannot follow any truth, and then, there can never be any Poetry. In this the fire of alert contemplation is like a spear, an arrow, or a javelin whose aim is true.
❖ KEVIN MCGRATH ~ VERS LA FLAMME ~ TWO THOUSAND & SIXTEEN ❖
Poets and Dreamers
San Clemente, CA
“Dare to live the life you have dreamed."
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