So in class today, we had a guest, a poet by the name of Florence Weinberger. When we had some extra time at the end of class, she asked some of us what our writing process was. Let me preface this with the fact that I had asked her to read one of her poems "Prayer" but I could not explain to her why it struck me. I sounded like a jumbled idiot asking for directions at a gas station...or at least that's what I felt like.
When, however, she asked what our writing process was, I was one of the students who decided to jump out and answer (why? you may ask...I'm still wondering that myself). I started with the fact that I began writing because I questioned too many things, I was depressed and I didn't know what else to do. Sentences didn't fit what I was feeling and never seemed to come out right, so I put my expression in poetry and images instead. They began to be my arguments with God as to why I was alive, what was my purpose, what was I doing here. They became my prayers in a form. She told me I was quite articulate, and that she would have never been able to tell someone why she had started writing poetry.
I realized why I so much enjoyed her poem "Prayer." The first lines of this poem say "Of course I prayed. Partly out of habit" which caught my attention right away. That was the way I prayed, if I began to sit down and just pray in my head or in my words, it was habitual, the prayers I had learned in Sunday school so many times. Even now, when I pray before meals, it is always the same prayer, exchanging some words for others, always ending the same...the same way my grandpa prays. But it is indeed still habit. I get caught up in the fact that I don't know if that is true prayer. We are told to have real conversations with God, that He is our Father, but then when it comes time to pray, everyone seems to have to be formal about it. I have since realized, that poetry is my prayer. It is my way to be truthful and honest in my prayers. To tell God what's really going on inside of me and to cry out in dire need of Him. Granted, not ALL of my poetry are prayers, but I will venture to say that all of my true prayers are poetry.
Everyone tells you that you can't be angry with God, you can't argue with Him. They tell you that you have to be polite and indifferent when talking to others. You mustn't start a disagreement, argument, disruption of any sort but simply stay diplomatic in all matters. Poetry has given me an avenue to change that, to be outspoken, to be truthful, honest, and frank about who I am, where I'm at and the life I haven't figured out how to live yet. It gives me a way to argue with God, trying to find answers in the predicaments of life. I feel sometimes as if I struggle with issues more than others because no one vocalizes them, so I hide them in my poetry. I feel as though I am not allowed to question anything because I cannot cause any disruptions.
So I guess in essence, my poetry, is my disruption of society, although it is not much of a disruption at all. Or at least that's what I feel like. I feel as if this is my story. We all have stories, whether in music, in film, in art, in novels, in short stories, in expressions, in acting, in plays, in speeches, in every other genre of expression possible...mine is in poetry. I may not be a good poet, I may not write about anything interesting which no one else will ever want to read, but this is my story and my expression. It is my argument with God, my prayers for loved ones, my wonders and amazements at the world around me, my hurts and pains that no one else feels, my distractions, my contemplations, my hopes, fears and dreams, my expression of love as well as my expression of doubt, my disruptions against society, my enlightenments of reading, my mundane every day life, my dreams of excitement elsewhere, my nightmares lurking hidden in my thoughts....my poetry is my life, my everything.
Because this contemplation was inspired by Florence Weinberger and her encouragement today, as well as her poem "Prayer," here is that poem for you to read and contemplate yourself.
Of course I prayed.
Partly out of habit; I prayed as a child without learning how,
without knowing what haunting necessity possessed me then.
So when it seemed certain
my husband, my partner of my entire adult life was going to die,
I prayed the hardest prayer: Thy will be done.
I was giving up arguments, bargaining, recriminations. The carnal
fragrance of hope.
Except for an almost inaudible request for mercy, I would go on living
with Thy will. Except for an almost unquenchable quest for meaning
I would go on laying down one word after another with trembling,
shaking, dwelling with moving lips on the relentless decay
and the way we love the children of our children; what it means
to leave an absence behind. What it is: to leave.
But would I be able to skirt the divinity and order and moral protest of poetry?
And how else to obliterate the glibness of death by cancer?
I began pounding these Kabbalistic questions on Afro-Cuban drums and found
I could reach pure anger by banging beyond concept.
Drumming with other women and men I became a lunatic drumming
my frenzy in chorus on bare nerve briefly giving up my quest for meaning.
Hearing how grief and heartbeat augmented each other
I began to regain my personal sense of desire.
I kept walking rapidly early in the morning, chanting
conviction under my breath
talking about him to everybody I came across
not caring that they seemed uncomfortable
that I let him die in the house in the bed on the side where I will never sleep
dosing him with almost invisible tabs of morphine
forced past his lips and under his tongue
to melt like hot snow the more swiftly to enter his blood stream
fully understanding intervals and ultimate objective
and why it is I can now bring myself to remember
as many details as I can bear
and I can keep walking and chanting and drumming thy will
and I can call it prayer and I can keep praying and praying
that someday my will comes closer to yours, O Lord.
--Florence Weinberger in Carnal Fragrance
Red Hen Press, 2004.