This is the best article I’ve read in 2016 – maybe ever.
It somehow manages to summarize, better than I ever could, the long, slow, painful journey of maturation. It deals with so many of the elements of my psyche that I’ve long been attempting to integrate and extols the virtues of that often debilitating work: vulnerability, intimacy, self-love, acting with purpose, the value of anger and developing the capability to have fulfilling relationships with others and the world in general: in short, transformation.
For me, transformation is the hope and goal of all art – the presentation of a point of view that offers a different perspective, a renewal – ultimately, growth. We outsource the actual pain of that growth to the artist – it’s Dante who finds himself alone and lost in the wood, Luke who sees his family murdered, Frodo who is burdened with the ring – not us. But we recognize that pain and are grateful that it is recognized externally without our having to undergo that pain directly.
But the process described in that article is art internalized, art enacted directly on the self with the goal of maturation, growth, transformation – and the pain is as real as Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”, or Plath’s “Ariel” or Picasso’s “Guernica”.
And since we’re talking about Transformation, and it is St. David’s Day, here’s Miracle on St. David’s Day by Gillian Clarke:
“They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude
-The Daffodils, William Wordsworth”
An afternoon yellow and open-mouthed
with daffodils. The sun treads the path
among cedars and enormous oaks.
It might be a country house, guests strolling,
the rumps of gardeners between nursery shrubs.
I am reading poetry to the insane.
An old woman, interrupting, offers
as many buckets of coals as I need.
A beautiful chestnut-haired boy listens
entirely absorbed. A schizophrenic
on a good day, they tell me later.
In a cage of first March sun a woman
sits not listening, not seeing, not feeling.
In her neat clothes the woman is absent.
A big mild man is tenderly led
to his chair. He has never spoken.
His labourer’s hands on his knees, he rocks
gently to the rhythms of the poems.
I read to their presences, absences,
to the big, dumb labouring man as he rocks.
He is suddenly standing, silently,
huge and mild, but I feel afraid. Like slow
movement of spring water or the first bird
of the year in the breaking darkness,
the labourer’s voice recites ‘The Daffodils’.
The nurses are frozen, alert; the patients
seem to listen. He is hoarse but word-perfect.
Outside the daffodils are still as wax,
a thousand, ten thousand, their syllables
unspoken, their creams and yellows still.
Forty years ago, in a Valleys school,
the class recited poetry by rote.
Since the dumbness of misery fell
he has remembered there was a music
of speech and that once he had something to say.
When he’s done, before the applause, we observe
the flowers’ silence. A thrush sings
and the daffodils are aflame.