Gratitude and Imitation- For Everyone at the Table
I’ve been thinking a lot about Rilke and angels lately, perhaps as two separate things or as one in the same for me. I want to begin by meditating on this quote by Rilke in The Preface to the Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow; “But now it is. Is. Is. Amen. So this is what I’ve survived for, through everything, on and on. Through Everything. All for this, Only this.” This quote brings to mind the leaf insect, the praying mantis, the octopus, creatures that imitate to survive and in imitation almost disappear or sink so far into imitation, into survival and existence, that they no longer exist to the human eye, they no longer are the thing they are or the thing they’ve become.
The angels, the heaviest and best weights in my life are the poets, the dead poets, the poets at the table every Wednesday, the poets in the halls of Eddy, the poets I’ve met here since returning for an MFA in August. These poets, these angels, these weights are the catalysts and culprits of my poems as beginning to understand themselves as sinking, as imitating that which sinks, as demonstrating survival as a meaningful weight. As we can garner from Biblical reactions to angels, the most beautiful news is situated most deeply in what is most terrifying. What truer guidance is there than learning how to let the poem sink by forcing it to imitate, to mimic, to appear as that which is beautiful and truly frightening?
Thinking about Rilke, what is the terror in knowing you’ve said what you needed to say? To be full of saying, to be full and heavy and having received guidance and achieved it? What is the terror and beauty in learning how to see the lessons the poem can teach us, as Dan has taught us in our pursuit of talking about poems?
As Catie’s poetry teaches us to write out past fullness and consciousness and push particles past knowing
As Kylan pushes us to think about the made poem as making the poem underneath or above itself or beyond itself into its periphery
As David’s poetry has taught us that brown trout are least of all brown, about color, about river, trout and mountain, about the spiritual wisdom figures of our subconscious
As Cole’s moment of epiphany about Neidecker in Lake Superior taught us to see eventually that Neidecker becomes the agate and the agate becomes her
As Cedar’s life charts teach us how to see and say non-human voices, about pine beetles, about the forest, about the tree as one and the tree as many
As Sam’s “splinters” and hollowed out images of ice and blood and rock teach us that the only way to write the poem is to give it back the blood it takes from us
As Zach’s poems, which have their own life force and relentless energy, teach us to question constructions of time, and teach us how to write a poem that writes itself as memory and future
As Sarah’s poems have taught us to “set out the suet,” to set out pieces of our heart for each other by writing poems
Is this what it means to sink, to listen to that which guides us, to listen to what is heaviest? Perhaps to imitate is to sink or stretch past one’s limits the way I have tried on every one of these voices, tried on the way their poems look on the page, tried on the lessons each poem beautifully and burdening lays on my heart as I keep writing. Or perhaps the true lesson in imitation is to write as the jawfish that swims besides the mimic octopus and mimics it performing mimicry.
I will write and shape and follow and condense and push out and die and say and teach myself how to change the patterns of my skin the patterns of the poem to mimic every beautiful thing
and in gratitude and imitation offer again from Rilke:
You hold each other. Have you assurances?
It sometimes happens that my hands
grow conscious of each other, or else my weary face
takes refuge in them. That gives me a slight self-sensation. Yet who, from something so unwarranted,
would dare conclude “I am”? You, though, who keep increasing
through the other’s rapture, until, overwhelmed, each
begs the other “no more”-; you who amid each other’s hands
flourish like vines in vintage years;
you who disappear sometimes, only because the other
grows rampant; I ask you about us