Writing About The World Within

Recent contemplation of the many facets of our inner experience as sentient beings has stirred my heart and mind to reflect more deeply on the foundations of my interest in the subject, and sent me into the archives of my own ancient writings, which I store in a large overseas shipping trunk from my travels in Europe many years ago. Within the stacks of folders, books, papers, correspondence, and photographs, I pulled several pen and ink drawings I made to illustrate some early writing efforts, and found several that struck me as clearly anticipating my interests, in ways that now seem quite amazing as they sprang from the visions of my inner life at that time. The one at the top of this entry was actually an illustration of a particularly vivid dream experience that haunted me for weeks after the dream, until I forced myself to sit long enough to release the dream’s vision on to the paper.

Even today, I find the intense imagery of that vision startling to contemplate, even as I consider the simplicity of the rendering, executed at the ripe old age of seventeen. Lost in what felt like an infinite maze of confusion and near-total darkness, I remember an overwhelming sense of panic which preceded the scene depicted in the drawing, grasping furiously at each of the doors along the corridor, feeling my way along the walls, barely able to discern the thinnest edges of the structures around me, until I had expended a monumental effort requiring an enormous strength of will, and with a burst of energy, running down toward what felt like a faint brightening in the distance. As I approached the crest of the curved surface, I was able to see over the walls to discover an endless maze on either side of the corridor, and paused momentarily to reach out toward the light.

In volume seven of an anthology of English Masterpieces edited by Maynard Mack, Leonard Dean, and William Frost called, “Modern Poetry,” the authors suggest that there is a:

“…contrast or conflict or disparity felt by any intelligent, sensitive person today between experience measurable or describable in the terms of physical science, and that immeasurable meaning–of whatever sort–which permeates experience in the form of value…What modern poetry seeks to do with this contrast between the measurable and the immeasurable facets of experience is to dramatize it.”

I began seriously considering the act of delivering my vision of my inner life through poetry as a necessity while still in high school, and was fortunate to have those tendencies encouraged and channeled into writing poetry through a marvelous encounter with a writing assignment. English classes were notoriously uninspiring in too many instances throughout my educational experiences, but in my third year, I was asked to illustrate several poems submitted for consideration as candidates for inclusion in the school literary magazine. Once engaged in the process, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the idea of expressing the world within through words and images, and ended up drawing again from a dream image, (see above) watching the world from a window overlooking a city street, somehow able to view both the world above and the world below simultaneously. The drawing now seems crude and a bit disjointed to me, but essentially capturing the experience of the dream. I felt as though I was floating above the scene, looking at myself in the window, alternately appearing back inside my body looking down at the people passing on the street.

As the seasons passed, and my writing rose and fell as a priority in my life, the poetry always remained, lingering sometimes in the silences, and at other times, spilling out in the chaos of my emotional roller-coaster of a life. Poetry has been described in numerous ways by a variety of scholars and experts, but for me, the process of creating poetry is best described as the creative expression of sounds and images, deliberately arranged to communicate the experience of being. In the interest of illustrating this idea, I present one of my original works entitled, “A Momentary Lapse of Finitude.”

A Momentary Lapse of Finitude

As I approach, you turn
As if alerted by
A sudden noise,
Though I am silent.

An exchange of photons
Ignites anticipation.
Familiar images explode in memory.
Pulses quicken in response.

Words of explanation fly
Across the air.
You bat them away as they arrive,
Awaiting a comfortable resolution.

We step awkwardly into
Uncertain sunlight,
Dancing between flickering
Shadows and unspoken thoughts.

The air swirls around us.
My heart leaps as you laugh.
Your eyes sparkle as you
Forget to guard against joy.

I can barely breathe
As we embrace on parting.
The universe collapses into
A momentary lapse of finitude.

© 2001 by JJHIII

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6 comments

  1. patricemj

    I really enjoyed this post…the drawings were evocative and I could see you well within them (well they did come from your dreams). It’s funny because from our exchanges, I hope this is OK to write, I have had the image of a darkened tunnel in my own mind, and a light way off in the distance. Strange. The drawings really help so much to somehow tether our visions. You are lucky you have this skill!

    The gulf between what we perceive and what we can communicate to others or even to ourselves can feel so cruel, like our very own life has it’s very own abyss we’re expect to span. Then again, perhaps we are fortunate to perceive this chasm, its inhalations and its exhalations.

    • jjhiii24

      It has been my hope that our exchanges might evoke something akin to a “light-in-the-distance” image, as this is indicative of an optimistic outlook for the future. To some degree, our shared experiences connect us to the visions we generate and to the creative flow that good writing needs in order to flourish. It is not often that such unambiguous connections manifest in the way they have with our exchanges.

      It is certainly OK for you to share your visions, your thoughts, ideas, and feelings in our exchanges, as doing so enhances our ability to communicate what we perceive. The abyss you speak of is the catalyst for motivating us to bridge the span, to extend ourselves and our capacities in the service of our shared visions.

      Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. He may err in the expression of them, but he knows that these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed. My willful actions and acquisitions are but roving–the idlest reverie, the faintest native emotion, command my curiosity and respect.”

      Our involuntary perceptions in our exchanges, our reveries, and emotions, truly “command my curiosity and respect.”

      Warmest regards….John H.

  2. Sahloo

    This post really made me think. (Well, everything has lately, which is good.) I appreciated getting to read one of your poems and especially reading about you and your thoughts and ponderings and consciousness when you were my age! (A welcome break from my dad’s “When I was your age…” stories!)

    Keep it up 🙂
    S.

    • jjhiii24

      I’m so glad to hear from you, and to know that something I wrote had such a good effect on you. You may be a young person in the number of years you have accumulated, but you are a thoughtful and mature and wise human being on the inside. It has taken me a lot longer than it took you to appreciate these thoughts and ponderings, and I sometimes feel like I must have slept through those early years. You are clearly awake!

      It is especially nice to know you appreciated my poem. Your own poetry is soulful and thought-provoking, and this particular one came from the very heart of me, where yours often land when I read them.

      Don’t be too hard on your Dad for his “When I was your age…” stories. I don’t think there has been a child born in the world who was much interested in hearing what their parents or caretakers did when THEY were young, but sometimes our most valuable ponderings can be inspired by the most unlikely of sources…even our parents!

      Please continue to visit with me and share your thoughts…Warm regards….John H.

  3. universalid

    You bring a depth of feeling to life with this post, thanks for sharing it. The pictures add to the perspective in the post and the poem really compliments them, alluding to, and outlining aspects of meaning without detailing and defining, allowing a triple-edged wondering to weave in the mind of me, the reader. Thoughtful as ever.

  4. jjhiii24

    Thank you for you considered response to my posting, Justin. It is often difficult to construct the contents of our writing sometimes, because either the subject matter is personally challenging or complex. Attempting to convey your thoughts and ideas in a comprehensible manner while still remaining true to your original intent isn’t always easy. It seems, in this case at least, that I was successful in achieving that balance. Your own comments demonstrate the presence of a most thoughtful reader, and I couldn’t ask for a more agreeable arrangement than that.

    Thanks for your likes and for visiting here. Please come back again……John H.

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