Louis MacNeice – The Sunlight on the Garden / Letter’s to a young poet

Hundred And Sixty One 9.9.16

I) A poem as promised : For those of you I have had the joy and privilege to sit with and for those of you who I hope to sit with someday – We have sat on a couch in the desert, on a swing under the rain, in a bar, on top of a shipping container, on a massive rock in Corona heights (remember that one time when watched the fire dancers and ate chocolate?) a small cafe in Tunis or a cantina in Mexico city, that weird fancy co-op you took me where we laid on the floor, dark allies with cheap beer, fancy French restaurant with frog legs and confit de canard, silently in a meditation hall, loudly on top of a communist bus in a labor rally in Ankara, on my bed, on your bed, in your parents house, in my parents house, or in our dreams! Heck I have sat with you in a jail cell in a police station, in hospital rooms, you have sat with me when I was almost dead and unconscious, I have sat next to your grave and read you poems (Ah how you never heard the best line) and we have watched the nutcracker together in an opera house (Remember I was keep calling it the buttcracker — I still do) ! We’ve been places, so anything happens from now on is just the bonus!

Louis MacNeice – The Sunlight on the Garden

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

II) Give me your address and you may get lil sumpin’ in the mail from me — I am not very good with mailing things but I want to give it a try.

III) An offering: if you want to know a little bit more about which philosophical and emotional ally ways I have been lurking like a monster in deep oceans / and dig little deeper in poetry and philosophical mind of our boy Rilke then keep on reading, if you want to know more but hate reading long emails, that’s cool. Come find me and we can sit around and talk about this in person – I’ll pour you wine and read this out loud, who knows maybe I’ll even buy you some chocolate. if you are just happy with the poem that’s cool too.. You may also never open this email and that’s cool too. Rest of this email is selection of paragraphs from Letters To a Young Poet and how I have interacted with this book.

TL;DR (Like real long – you may want to print this out and read it when you are doing some pleasure reading) – I have been wanting to send this email for a while, but it took me sometimes to prepare it in a way that was good for both us. Like in a respectful way to me, to you, and Rilke – without half-assing it. No quick way of traveling the landscape of solitude and poerty with a hop on tour bus… it’s all done on foot and slowly.

I am sending you a sample of something that I have enjoy reading over and over and over in the past 4 months that is not poetry, yet it is. Now, what poetry is, is a different question and I am happy to learn from you over some coffee or whiskey in person – we can meet up and argue by writing essays. You know how to find me (sort of). #Nerds!

Thanks to Kate Seely, I have read LTAYP 5 or 6 times in the past 4 months and it has impacted so much of my writing (I know – it’s hard to see), thinking, and the way I interact with life. It has given me strength to own my solitude and helped me to walk in the darkest hours of my being without being deterred by the jarring sounds of loneliness. Rilke draws a map for the landscape of solitude and darkness like no body else. He won’t hold your hand, he won’t guide you, but he will, with his words, gives you that affirmation that you look for right before taking a walk in the deep and dark forest. You know that, hey you got this kind of support. In the past few months I have pondered on some questions more than others. For example, Do I really value being in solitude? Am I good at it? Do I know how to see it? Do I want to carve out a life style that prioritize solitude and detachment or do I want rent a room in this land and eventually go back to the world of family and codependency? I have experienced solitude (Being alone) tangled with a great sense of loneliness, and have been thinking about finding ways to untangle these two from one another. Locked myself in for days, cried myself to sleep, drank myself to sleep, starve myself too sleep, or kept myself awake for more than 24 hours just reading, singing, and writing. (Not all at the same time), given up, achieved a great sense of solitude, felt calm, felt strong, danced in solitude, pushed solitude. Won some battles and lost some. I have thought about fundamentality of solitude and fundamentality of companionship. Are we inherently alone? or Part of being human is codependency and family? (Do you see a theme here?). Then I have done some work in my poetry. I have tried to shift my poems from “complex” to “simple” — took Rilke’s advice. Worked on making them short, cut the fluff, and just write as much as I can everyday! I have had to sit with the romantic in me and say Listen, it’s all nice that you are feeling all these, but we gotta practice discipline. we have fought. I have stared to record little details of my surrounding to my little brain, so that I can throw them in my poetry. I have preached the necessity of solitude in creative and intellectual process – and failed to explain the subtle power and value of solitude… Because I’m just a kid in the first grade of this school. I have laughed my lil heart out to how naive I am. I have enjoyed being young and forgiven myself for starting so many things in my life in a much early age than many of my peers (like experience with death, living alone,etc), and forgiven myself for falling behind on many things and the list goes on… in many of these times I have return to this book as a monk would return to bible in the moments of doubt when he is frustrated by the bureaucracy of the church. rants rants words words..

This is obviously not the whole book, and these titles taht I have given to the letters are not actual titles nor description of the each letter. These are just sections of these letters that I have enjoyed the most, and what I think these sections are about. Like if we talk about writing love poems at some point I will bring in Rilke’s perspective in letter one using paragraph three. If you like what you read here, I would highly recommend reading the whole thing.

From Letter No. 1 — Beginning of the dialog / On Criticism / On Poetry / On Inspiration.

Your letter arrived just a few days ago. I want to thank you for the great confidence you have placed in me. That is all I can do. I cannot discuss your verses; for any attempt at criticism would be foreign to me. Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism: they always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings.

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose.

Don’t write love poems; avoid those forms that are too facile and ordinary: they are the hardest to work with, and it takes a great, fully ripened power to create something individual where good, even glorious, traditions exist in abundance. So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty Describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place.

From Letter No.4 — On beginning the journey in Solitude.

But everything that may someday be possible for many people, the solitary man can now, already, prepare and build with his own hands, which make fewer mistakes. Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away, you write, and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast. And if what is near you is far away, then your vastness is already among the stars and is very great; be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust. Avoid providing material for the drama, that is always stretched tight between parent and children; it uses up much of the children’s strength and wastes the love of the elders, which acts and warms even if it doesn’t comprehend Don’t ask for any advice from them and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.

From Letter No. 5 — On Rome / New Places to Live

Rome (if one has not yet become acquainted with it) makes one feel stifled with sadness for the first few days: through the gloomy and lifeless museum atmosphere that it exhales, through the abundance of its pasts, which are brought forth and laboriously held up (pasts on which a tiny present subsists), through the terrible overvaluing, sustained by scholars and philologists and imitated by the ordinary tourist in Italy, of all these disfigured and decaying Things, which, after all, are essentially nothing more than accidental remains from another time and from a life that is not and should not be ours. Finally, after weeks of daily resistance, one finds oneself somewhat composed again, even though still a bit confused, and one says to oneself: No, there is not more beauty here than in other places, and all these objects, which have been marveled at by generation after generation, mended and restored by the hands of workmen, mean nothing, are nothing, and have no heart and no value; but there is much beauty here, because every where there is much beauty. Waters infinitely full of life move along the ancient aqueducts into the great city and dance in the many city squares over white basins of stone and spread out in large, spacious pools and murmur by day and lift up their murmuring to the night, which is vast here and starry and soft with winds. And there are gardens here, unforgettable boulevards, and stair cases designed by Michelangelo, staircases constructed on the pattern of downward-gliding waters and, as they descend, widely giving birth to step out of step as if it were wave out of wave.

From Letter No.6 — On God / Spirituality / Hope.

And if it frightens and torments you to think of childhood and of the simplicity and silence that accompanies it, because you can no longer believe in God, who appears in it everywhere, then ask yourself, dear Mr. Kappus, whether you have really lost God. Isn’t it much truer to say that you have never yet possessed him? For when could that have been? Do you think that a child can hold him, him whom grown men bear only with great effort and whose weight crushes the old? Do you suppose that someone who really has him could lose him like a little stone? Or don’t you think that someone who once had him could only be lost by him? But if you realize that he did not exist in your childhood, and did not exist previously, if you suspect that Christ was deluded by his yearning and Muhammad deceived by his pride – and if you are terrified to feel that even now he does not exist, even at this moment when we are talking about him – what justifies you then, if he never existed, in missing him like someone who has passed away and in searching for him as though he were lost?

Why don’t you think of him as the one who is coming, who has been approaching from all eternity, the one who will someday arrive, the ultimate fruit of a tree whose leaves we are? What keeps you from projecting his birth into the ages that are coming into existence, and living your life as a painful and lovely day in the history of a great pregnancy? Don’t you see how everything that happens is again and again a beginning, and couldn’t it be His beginning, since, in itself, starting is always so beautiful? If he is the most perfect one, must not what is less perfect precede him, so that he can choose himself out of fullness and superabundance? Must he not be the last one, so that he can include everything in himself, and what meaning would we have if he whom we are longing for has already existed?

From Letter No. 7 — On Love / Beginners Mind.

It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and therefore loving, for a long time ahead and far on into life, is: solitude, a heightened and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves. Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances. Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves (“to hearken and to hammer day and night”), may young people use the love that is given to them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough.

But this is what young people are so often and so disastrously wrong in doing: they (who by their very nature are impatient) fling themselves at each other when love takes hold of them, they scatter themselves, just as they are, in all their messiness, disorder, bewilderment. And what can happen then? What can life do with this heap of half-broken things that they call their communion and that they would like to call their happiness, if that were possible, and their future? And so each of them loses himself for the sake of the other person, and loses the other, and many others who still wanted to come. And loses the vast distances and possibilities, gives up the approaching and fleeing of gentle, prescient Things in exchange for an unfruitful confusion, out of which nothing more can come; nothing but a bit of disgust, disappointment, and poverty, and the escape into one of the many conventions that have been put up in great numbers like public shelters on this most dangerous road. No area of human experience is so extensively provided with conventions as this one is: there are life-preservers of the most varied invention, boats and water wings; society has been able to create refuges of every sort, for since it preferred to take love life as an amusement, it also had to give it an easy form, cheap, safe, and sure, as public amusements are.

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