"[T]he poet takes bare fact and clothes it with meaning. The poet hears the roar on the other side of silence. The poet sees the world in a grain of sand, men as trees walking, and the ocean as a whale-road." (Suzanne Clark, in The Roar On the Other Side)
After silence, after finding the wherewithal to be still and wait on God, poets and writers must learn to see and hear in a way that most other folks can glimpse only in the briefest of moments. There is a fierce velocity about the world. Drive the speed limit and you begin to realize that you are practically alone in this idiosyncrasy or experiment in puttering. Leaving work at the end of a long day, eager to be home, walk slowly to the car as the herd of commuters rush past. Notice the slant of the light at the end of the day. Consider what kind of tree grows by the bus stop sign. Walk, don't run. Begin to see.
You slow down by looking at things much, much longer, by turning the radio/MP3 player/CD player off and listening, something like this:
One boy is staring slantwise at the
corner of the roof, mouthing
words he only half knows, another
fumbling with his too-big shirt, pulling it
this way and that, shaking his head nervously.
Pale moon faces watch, mostly, their
voices sing-shout words that resonate, an
elasticity of motion, listening, a smile here and
there, a request "can we take it from where I SHOUT?" a
girl says, directing already, telling the boy to move over. NOW.
Even here, I can hear the boy with the deep brown
eyes, his voice strong, his red sweater neatly lying
over courderoy pants, brown shoes, dressed to the nines
for rehearsal tonight. Angelic moon faces with Jesus
words, soft harmonies, a bubbling spring of song, a
slight glimpse, through a glass dimly, of heaven-song.
That's not great poetry but merely an attempt to see and hear, to stop and slow down, to hear the roar on the other side of silence, like Suzanne says.
Annie Dillard --- now there's a seer. Listen to how she speaks of seeing in her book of seeing, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek:
It is still the first week in January, and I've got great plans. I've been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But --- and this is the point --- who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.
In Annie Dillard's economy, the poor are rich and the full hungry. It sounds like the Kingdom of God.
My daugther is singing in the next room, happily at home with her voice, and me, I am rich. To listen is free. She sings for pure joy and delight. I'll stoop and pick up this copper penny.
The best things are free. You just have to listen. You just have to see. God help me learn to see, to stare hard at life until it gives up meaning.