Monday, January 02, 2012

Poetics and Iaido

Among the myriad martial arts forms one might consider, I often consider several principles within Iaido, or the art of drawing the sword, of significant interest to poets. During college, one of my theater teachers felt it was important for artists in particular to develop a unity between mind, body, thought and action, and over time, that, among other things, brought me into contact with the iaido form from Japan.

I feel both poetry and iaido should be a form of waking meditation, focused on your being fully in the present.

In a single stroke within iaido you draw the blade, cut the target (possibly even multiple targets), clean the blade and return it to its scabbard. This motion should be fluid and elegant, without hesitation, perfectly expending energy without waste: No more, no less than required. One maintains clarity of mind and ideally, action is not clouded by emotion, such as rage or despair, greed or ambition. 

Herrigel proposed in Zen and the Art of Archery that you come to an understanding that you do not take the shot. The shot takes the shot. The cut makes the cut. And so, finally, I would propose, the poem makes the poem.

Ideally, the poem that appears on your paper is written in one sitting and needs no edits or revision. This may, in many cases, extend towards the live performance of such a poem as well. 

American poetics are often fixated on the self and the I, obscure arcana and detritus, binary expressions of I-Thou, Either-Or, Yes-No, Heaven-Hell, Good-Evil.

In my approach, the ego is ideally submerged within a poem, even as it is already in a state of unity with the words. The way I talk about everything except myself is still a way of talking about myself, and yet not. There are schools of poetry that disagree with this approach. But every poet finds their own path and preferred forms.

Of course, this is the ideal, and in actual practice most of my poems are tweaked constantly over time as I learn new techniques, gain new perspective, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

But even as there is a gulf between the ideal and the reality, you understand  the mountain you approach. Once in a while, you will succeed and those moments will be deeply satisfying.  And if you are mindful of your process, even if you don't 'succeed', you still grow from it, ready for the next moment.

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