Monday, January 11, 2016

January 11: Poet of the Week, Ilya Kaminsky, "Author's Prayer," Letting Go, Dips, Slinkies

Tonight, I have chosen Ilya Kaminsky as the Poet of the Week.  I saw him read many years ago, and his collection, Dancing in Odessa, is stunning.  Kaminsky has been deaf since he was four, and yet, his poems sing on the page.  One of my favorites:

Author's Prayer

by:  Ilya Kaminsky

If I speak for the dead, I must leave
this animal of my body,

I must write the same poem over and over,
for an empty page is the white flag of their surrender.

If I speak for them, I must walk on the edge
of myself, I must live as a blind man

who runs through rooms without
touching the furniture

Yes, I live.  I can cross the streets asking "What year is it?"
I can dance in my sleep and laugh

in front of the mirror.
Even sleep is a prayer, Lord,

I will praise your madness, and
in a language not mine, speak

of music that wakes us, music
in which we move.  For whatever I say

is a kind of petition, and the darkest
days must I praise.

This is the opening poem of the collection, a kind of psalm to loss.  Kaminsky is able to dance to grief, find the music in silence.  He looks at himself in the mirror and laughs at the animal he sees.

I got up at 5 a.m. today.  I worked.  I taught.  I came home.  I shoveled.  I put my son to bed.  I watched the news.  The end of vacation.  The start of a new semester.  I am trying to be like Kaminsky, praising madness, finding prayer in my day.  At the moment, I'm not being very successful.

I have decided to forgo doing "dips" this year.  I've done Carol dips during the year of A Christmas Carol.  I did Rye dips during my 365 days with The Catcher in the Rye.  I've done Web dips (Charlotte's Web) and Ives dips (Mr. Ives' Christmas).  I've decided that basing my future happiness on random passages from some book is, perhaps, not the healthiest way to find fulfillment.

Thus, I am letting go.  Annie Dillard writes this of letting go:

But there is another kind of seeing that involves a letting go.  When I see this way I sway transfixed and emptied.  The difference between the two ways of seeing is the difference between walking with and without a camera.  When I walk with a camera I walk from shot to shot, reading the light on a calibrated meter.  When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens, and the moment's light prints on my own silver gut.  When I see this second way I am above an unscrupulous observer.

I am not going to allow myself to be boxed in by "dips."  I am letting go of that particular camera.  In doing so, maybe my vision of my days will change.  Like Dillard and Kaminsky, maybe I will become an unscrupulous observer of the universe.

Or maybe Saint Marty will just take a sleeping pill and go to sleep.

Another way of looking at the universe...

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