I hadn’t posted anything to the blog in a while. So, as I took stock of the past days’ whirlwind, and the wispiest conceit, born of real experience and captured as a word sketch in my journal, caught my eye and imagination, I decided it might pass muster for the Verse page of this blog.
Sometimes in the moment, the poet is moved, but too much devoted to inhabiting the present to grab a pen, or put on the wordsmith’s tunnel vision goggles. The mystic must open her heart and let the moment and the petals of the pretty conceit flow in. But she must be willing to let go, to let them float on out of the mind if they must. If Grace smiles and a few words and images cling to the banks there, they can be collected later, and reassembled.
Then it becomes a process of channelling and translation, from wordless impressions–sensations, fragrances, ideas, ephemeral eddies of irony– into language that reflects the images or carries their bouquet.
One might trim, consolidate, clarify or polish, but generally for a conceit this slight, one doesn’t apply much editorial pressure. And so it was, I emailed the poem to a handful of folks, posted it to the verse page of this blog, and moved on, massaging any giddy residues of it out of mind and heart with a morning yoga practice.
The first friend to acknowledge it, did so with a correction.
“M, zoon not zoa — the latter is plural 😐 ” he had typed, referring to the line: “A missile, a spermatozoa.”
“Grumph,” I thought. But as an editor who focuses on helping fellow travelers express right brain material into left brain language with the least impairment of the subtle transmission possible, I knew that I must receive the correction with Grace, as Grace. So, I labored little in amending the line, relaxing the pincers of perfectionism and giving it its own life.
It all evoked two memories. The first of how my dear friend Steve used to object to my tendency to correct his written verbiage, choosing to emphasize the words over the heart expressing through them. Having been raised to over-value language, perhaps, I thought my friend thin skinned…at the time.
And then there was the incident, well over a decade ago now, when I sent my mother a section of an editing project I’d been working on, so that she could see what I was up to, could glimpse the subject matter that interested me (and which was more available to me in the part of the country I chose to live).
As a mother who had given editorial input as she typed my papers throughout high school and college (and as a librarian habituated to shining the light of literacy in the murky waters of socio-economic strata where survival still trumped such concerns), she sent the excerpt back to me in her next letter, wriggling with red worms of correction. My heart grimaced; my mind objected; but I understood that she meant well. This was how she could help; this was what she valued. She had chosen to value grammatical standards over the far less quantifiable realms of the heart and spirit.
In this project I had shared with her, a catalog for a school for nutrition and healing, I had delicately straddled these worlds. Seeking to make it literate and clear without constraining or stultifying the intent and content of the material, which was aimed at folks less concerned with rigors of historical linguistic standards. Language is ever evolving, and while we must appreciate the value of the standards in maintaining clarity and credibility, rigidity kills.
The experience, of course, provoked my own personal issues around not feeling seen or understood. But it also promoted a very immediate compassion for both “sides” of the argument, and redoubled my dedication to weaving a strong, flexible communication between them in my own skill and service as an editor.
Each such collision is an opportunity to listen and learn. And for that I give thanks. Heart and mind are not separate, but when they appear to be, we often use words as a zipper, instead of tapping juice where it is most alive in that living synapse between them.
You may still find the poem that prompted this blog post on the verse page: Meta, with Metta.