Sunday, September 01, 2013


"Sunset at Little Salmon, Yukon",
watercolor, by Jackie Irvine
            Yesterday, a friend told me he was recently hiking in a forest and soon found himself, as he said, “in the middle of nowhere”, and it reminded me of a somewhat strange hope I always have when I start reading a book or a poem. As surprising as it may sound, I hope I will feel somewhat lost as I read. I hope I often feel befuddled, dumbfounded, and startled by what I am reading. If, when I’m reading a short story, I feel, for awhile, like I’m “in the middle of nowhere”, I say good for me, for then I might have the stirring experience of finding my way to somewhere. We often forget that in order to experience illumination we have to first be in darkness – that the contentment of new knowledge can only come after the discontent of ignorance. If I’m never “in the middle of nowhere” when I’m reading a poem, how can I ever feel the thrill of finding the somewhere of the poem’s heart and soul? In a sense, reading, for me, is about walking into darkness so I can better appreciate the light when it comes. For that reason, I guess I don’t especially enjoy the “easy” books I sometimes read – books that are filled, you might say, with easily noticeable light – because then very little finding, unearthing, uncovering, or stumbling upon is possible. I take the most pleasure in books that puzzle me with their shadows and obscurity, and in poems that sometimes conceal their meanings in an exciting kind of darkness, because then, there’s always the possibility of some sudden and even spectacular light ahead. 

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