Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013.10.27 Prayer is Poetry and Poetry Prayer

"I'm not very good at praying, but what I experience when I'm writing a poem is close to prayer. I feel it in different degrees and not with every poem. But in certain ways writing is a form of prayer.”

Denise Levertov (1923-1997) wrote the above quote, along with the beautiful poem below. She was born in England, served as a civilian nurse in WWII, and published her first book in 1946 after which she came to America.

I get the prayer/poem connection.When I write I am drawn into the process as if I were a deer and the computer screen bright headlights.  I’m not dazed or in a trance.  I’m just engaged with something so much bigger than I am and with so much fascination I forget that it’s me doing it.  Some days, not all, it can seem as if words write themselves. I wonder if that’s how Godde created— electric with the fierce runaway energy of mutual potentiation. Deep prayer, when I let it happen, is just like that: I become We.

Levertov intuits this kind of connective mystery, a natural, near-quotidian holiness that does not dissolve.

Come Into Animal Presence (1961)

No man is so guileless as
the serpent. The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star
twitching its ears at the rain.
The llama intricately
folding its hind legs to be seated
not disdains but mildly
disregards human approval.
What joy when the insouciant
armadillo glances at us and doesn't
quicken his trotting
across the track into the palm brush.

What is this joy? That no animal
falters, but knows what it must do?
That the snake has no blemish,
that the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings
in white star-silence? The llama
rests in dignity, the armadillo
has some intention to pursue in the palm-forest.
Those who were sacred have remained so,
holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence
of bronze, only the sight that saw it
faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.

Oh,by the way, no one is good, or bad, at praying.