Talking about poetry in these turbulent times may seem out of place. Yet it is simply to change your outlook, to turn your back on the commodification of the world and beings, to celebrate the living and the beauty that surrounds us.
A few years ago, in 2012 to be precise, the magazine canopy proposed an issue entitled “Living poetically in the world”, in which appeared a magnificent text by Christian Bobin: “The contemplatives are the most resistant warriors. » In this manifesto1, he posed the figure of the poet as that of a resister to dehumanization, to the derealization of the world. “Basically, living poetically is opposed to living technically,” he wrote.
Eugène Guillevic, the poet, said the same thing: “That’s what I would call living in poetry: extending reality not by the fantastic, the marvelous, heavenly images, but by trying to live the concrete in its real dimension, living everyday life in what we can call – perhaps – the epic of reality2. A reality that can be horror, as Guillevic testifies in his poem The Charniers. “Yes, even horror can be experienced in poetry. This does not mean that poetry attenuates or weakens the horror, it perhaps means that it takes the horror to this level which means that, lived in poetry, it does not degrade”, he explained.
Make no mistake, living your life as a poet does not mean formally becoming a poet. “The poetic goes far beyond the limits of what is called ‘poetry’. […] Almost all the fiery experiences of life, the perceptions of things and beings, conceal a poetic dimension. When one takes the trouble to listen to the exuberant reverberations of reality within oneself, life seems to be transformed because it approaches a plenitude, a kind of accomplishment”, writes Jean Onimus in What is the poetic? (Poesis). To the poetic, Onimus opposes the “prosaic”, which he sees as the opposite of the real and which is synonymous with the automatic, the mechanical. The glances that sweep instead of resting, the uninhabited gestures, the worn-out words, the meaningless formulas, the mind invested in strategies and calculations. Onimus also quotes René Char, who saw the poet as “the part of man refractory to calculated projects”.
The subject is not new: “The world must be romanticized”, wrote the poet and philosopher Novalis in his eponymous work (Allia). Novalis, like Bobin or Guillevic after him, thought that “poetry is the truly absolute reality. This is the core of my philosophy. The more poetic it is, the more true it is”.
Contemplate with an open heart
The expression is by Jean Onimus. It expresses the very essence of poetic life. “Contemplating, says Bobin again, is a way of taking care. It’s breaking everything that, in us, looks like greed, but also an expectation or a project. When there is neither expectation nor research, all that remains is to let one’s senses and one’s mind plunge into reality, sink into astonishment, the wonder of the neglected detail or of what, always seeming the same, in reality changes every moment. The faces of loved ones, the play of light, the multitude of sounds, everyday objects and actions. “To live in poetry, writes Guillevic again, to make an object as modest as it is, grass, become the equivalent of the ocean or a menhir. »
How to get bored, how to be bored if one becomes an observer, a scrupulous explorer of what surrounds us. The gaze that contemplates with the heart can only be surprised, marvel, indignant or saddened too. These movements of emotions, associations of images or thoughts, reminiscences, bear witness to the richness and vitality of an interiority that we too often neglect. However, this is how we re-humanize ourselves, how we fully inhabit our life and the world.
A simple nocturnal awakening can be a poetic moment if we give it the gift of our attention. “I woke up in the middle of the night, writes Patti Smith in gleaners of dreams (Gallimard). Above my head, through the open skylight, the moon – bright gold – like the shield of a terrified but resolute young warrior. The secret: plunging into the present moment, all senses deployed, letting sensations, emotions, associations come to you, has the power to transform an ordinary moment into an extraordinary moment.
Put on wind soles
It was probably not Verlaine who called Rimbaud “the man with the soles of the wind”, but no matter, the caption is beautiful and the image so accurate. Wearing soles of wind means nomadizing, venturing into unknown lands, without preconceived ideas or expectations, to refresh your outlook and expand your life. When the world, the daily life seems too narrow to us, it is urgent to suspend the movement and to question one’s own capacity to innovate, dare, explore. No need to go thousands of miles away.
In a short story, Random streets (Interferences), Virginia Woolf recounts one of her walks one evening in winter. She wants to stretch her legs and buy a pencil. Under his pen, the walk becomes an odyssey: the lights of the headlights, a Chinese bowl in the window of a flea market bring back memories of Italy, the bookseller’s wife becomes the character of a novel that she weaves before our eyes…
After his accident, Sylvain Tesson, a great traveler, made the crossing of France a path of rehabilitation and a poetic adventure. “Life gave me a chance, so it was high time to cross France on foot on my dark paths. There, no one tells you how to stand, what to think, or even the direction to take. Wandering is a reappropriation of one’s life. It’s listening to your body tell us about its desires, its hunger, its pain. It is also to listen to one’s soul, to let it take the place of the ordinary mind, it is to give oneself the opportunity, as Hölderlin writes, to “humanly weigh the world of life, and to see in a high sense a greater high life3 “.
To feel, to look, to speak, to act, from one’s soul, from what in itself is greater than oneself, is the very essence of spirituality. This is no doubt why Paul Claudel said that “poetry joins prayer”.
If the Indian thinker and artist Rabindranath Tagore writes that “in the religion of the poet, there is neither doctrine nor commandments4 is good because the poet is also an archetype of freedom. Fleeing conventions and constraints, he thinks from his subjectivity, his sensitivity. Following in his footsteps requires us to be familiar with our inner world. As soon as we turn to our interiority, we embrace our singularity, our subjectivity, and have access to who we really are. But for that, we still have to give time and value to our daydreams, to those moments when we “do nothing”, where we “hang around”. It is often these moments of abandonment that let children’s dreams emerge, mad desires, buried desires, intuitions, visions too.
In his book The living world of imagination (Éditions du Rocher), Kathleen Raine, British poet, devotes a chapter to the “Inner journey of the poet” – she pays homage to Jung, a great explorer of the depths, before qualifying the dives in themselves as “the imaginative poetry of humanity “. Claire and Reno Marca are artists who play with words, photos, drawings, to tell their travels. Inside and outside. In their latest album, Our inner journeys, towards a renaissance in Japan (Flammarion), the wonders of the world and Reno’s disease intertwine, sometimes collide. This is also what poetically inhabiting the world is: embracing in the same spirit the beauty of the world and the fragility of life.
1. Text by Christian Bobin published under the title The Whistling Plasterer (Poesis).
2. Guillevic, in Living in poetry or the epic of reality (The cherry season).
3. Friedrich Holderlin, in Manifest anthology, poetically inhabiting the world (Poesis).
4. Rabindranath Tagore, in The Poet’s Religion (Payot).
Letters to a young poet by Rainer-Maria Rilke. A marvelous guide for all those who want to live a more sensitive, truer and more poetic life (Grasset).
The Poetics of Reverie by Gaston Bachelard. A philosophical and poetic eulogy of dreams and the infinite richness of an active inner life (PUF).
Poetry will save the world by Jean-Pierre Simeon. The incisive and vibrant manifesto of a poet, author of novels and plays (Le Passeur, publisher).
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Live your life as a poet
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