We Haven’t Located Us Yet: Dwelling Poetically and Locating the Body
What does it mean to be anywhere, to love a place, to make it yours? Can we really dwell within a city, a landscape, a home? Does ownership preclude dwelling? Do you have to choose a place, or does it choose you? Can you be trapped in a place and still not feel as if you’re really dwelling in it? How do you write from the perspective of a person choosing to be displaced, and from a perspective of not really having found any place.
Whenever I leave my apartment here in Fort Collins (a one-hundred year old house converted into a duplex), I must figure in how much time it takes to travel from my apartment to campus, to work, to sundry other obligations. I do not have a car, and therefore depend on public transportation, walking, or, when the weather is nice and I’m feeling confident, my bicycle. I do not go snowboarding every weekend, I didn’t know what a fourteener was until I was mildly shamed when I asked a group of mostly native Coloradans, and “working out” means walking–the necessary journey from where I am to where I want to be, or need to be. The further west one travels, the larger it all becomes. The streets are wider, the sky is closer, everything is so far away from where I currently am.
In his essay “…Poetically, Man Dwells,” Martin Heidegger uses a poem by Hölderlin to frame an idea of how to dwell “poetically,” what it means to dwell, let alone to dwell “open, ready for the unforeseen.” I think that this radical openness, this vulnerability in being ready for the unforeseen, whatever tragedy or revelation that may be, is the only way in which to live as writers. But how do we “dwell” this way? How do we live with this radical and spiritual openness? How do we leave a wound open and how do we reconcile with the pain as well as the scar? How do we we even contend with that which is in ourselves? I see this anxiety and this wonder in the eyes of my fellow writers. It is in this moment that I feel I have located myself in the other.
Mary Ruefle refers to it as “the madness, rack and honey of it.” Ever since I read the essay in which this is mentioned, I have so often tried to recognize this “madness, rack and honey” of one who dwells poetically. The disassociation of not really knowing where one is located (the madness), the pain of the open wound (the rack) and the sweetness of wonder, of losing and finding oneself again within the poem (the honey). Perhaps I will not really ever connect or make my home in a significant way in Fort Collins, in my old apartment with so many closets and doors that won’t close and dark corners that gather dust, but as long as I am a person who writes poems, who gives myself over to the radical openness of living and writing, I am, at the very least, dwelling poetically.