After reading Natalie Goldberg’s essay “How Poetry Saved My Life”, in which she reveals her first flush of love with words and the art of poetry, I realized that I too have been having a clandestine romance with the English language (shhhhh … don’t tell my husband ;-D ). It has left me breathless many a night over a blank journal.
I hear words or phrases in my head. Sometimes, if I am lucky, a whole first stanza will appear. Who knows what gracious muse bestows this gift to me on these nights, but I am thankful nonetheless. After writing and re-writing a passage, typing it in and making “each word shine” (Emily Dickinson’s choice words, not mine – isn’t she brilliant?!), I will read the poem, short story, or chapter from a novel out loud. I let each word fall from my mouth and take up the whole room, so that the rhythm brushes my skin with heat and the chiming of syllables falls like rain all around me. I close my eyes sometimes to see, really see, where my characters live. Some live in a one-bedroom apartment where the grotty linoleum needs a good scrubbing. Others don’t seem to live anywhere – they walk the streets for the duration of the story. Their history takes up the space that a home normally would ~ great, big spaces of melancholy and grace.
Words are like music when you listen attentively. They can lull you to sleep on a restless night. Phrases can soothe you with their surprising tenderness like a warm bath doused with lavender and bergamot oils. Whole paragraphs that move in a single motion like a smooth flowing river can be so soft. You will want to wrap them around your shoulders, your knees, and your gorgeous toes that get cold at night. The warmth will energize and inspire you to write more, so that an entire afghan blanket appears to shelter your dreams.
So dream about words, bathe yourself in syllables, let each image that takes shape lead you down the literary path. May you have many sweet dreams filled with words.