It’s been a while since I visited Gary Lawless at Gulf of Maine Books. As one of Maine’s book strongholds, I think I could have easily spent hours. I remarked that I had almost forgotten what it was like to be in a book store. This is partly due to my life and work but partly due to many a store disappearing about four or five years ago. The survivors have managed well enough because so many of us still love the act of going to a store for books in print. I bought several books.
One in particular, The Narrow Road to the Interior by Kimiko Hahn, with a painting by Vincent van Gogh on the cover, and not the only reason I purchased this book, I have been meaning to write about ever since.
Upon picking it up again today I was committed once again. The cover says, “Expansive and experimental, Kimiko Hahn’s new work uses the free-form Japanese artistic technique zuihitsu . . .” The author offers brief definitions, all she could find, of a sentence or two. My favorite (fragment), “following [ the impulses of ] the brush . . . ” As I read from the pages excitement grew, “and consisting of brief essays on random topics.” Like finding out about “visual thinking”, here was a form of poetry, most definitely poetic, that not only spoke to experiential creativity but to my existence, as a human being, and as an artist— thought that is not linear nor does it wander. Descriptions so often do no justice. What does it mean when we find affirmation in the words of another, and not just the words but the way they are put together?
“About her daughter’s whereabouts she knows enough; but of
dragonflies, she collects books.”
Whether or not Hahn’s work in this book follows a form seems irrelevant. Rather, because it feels free and unencumbered by structure (there are a few tankas), it is more powerful, revealing ones own thoughts on a walk, not unlike haiku, a larger journey, of vision and feeling, experience, memory, and a personal dialogue.
Today I was thrilled to read a few pages on Wellfleet, Midsummer, Wellfleet being one of my spiritual anchors in past life and family, interwoven as these kinds of places are with mystery, it is a place I return to in my mind and in seasons to revisit the changed and the unchanged. At best times it is a fortuitous well of discovery, creatively speaking, and for allusive disclosures from personal reflection. If one must be literal, even the reflection in tidal pools reveals (koans) of thought, as journey’s to an interior suggest a duality.
“The tide pulls out and the grasses simmer alive in the twilight. If my
heart were only this marsh!”
The Cape is not wide in most places but Wellfleet, especially So.Wellfleet is probably the most narrow area, only about a mile between bay and ocean at Blackfish Creek, my home for the exploration of nature as a boy. The bay-side stretch between Truro and Eastham geographically contains islands, peninsulas, creeks and marshes, which make the area around Wellfleet harbor a natural wildlife habitat. There are beautiful fresh water ponds here in this area, too.
Kimiko’s verses touch upon the nature of the place intertwined and paralleled with personal inclusions that correspond to my own. I can perhaps now shed some inhibition about expressing something on an Audubon trail that before seemed unjustified as poesy. Speaking mostly for myself but perhaps for others as well, too often expression is un-trusted when it comes from within, held back by some rote intimidation.
Between the great ocean and the bay lies great life, a sanctuary between the calmness of slow-moving tides and the force of surf and undertow.
“it is the heart-that-is-afraid-to-be-heard, this bridge over the salt
marsh at high tide. Still‚— it is passable—”
I know this road or one like it, the road to Lieutenants Island with its wooden bridge over a rivulet through the marsh which flows over to Blackfish Creek where I fished for blues with Gill Franklin from his boat. Very close to the Marconi Rd.,from route 6, the road turns from asphalt to gravel probably a quarter-mile from the bridge that often at high tide it is not passable. It is the only way onto the island except for by boat.
How often do we see or not see, how reflection leads us to metaphor? How many metaphors are not substantial?
Lately I have been finding connection in my reading. A piece by Zadie Smith and this book by Kimiko Hahn have illumined something of myself to me. Still I have the doubt that I have not the command of language nor the vocabulary to make their kind of expression my own. Even though I think about the same things, am provoked by my visual world, external events, and my reading, I wonder if I can, either in words or with images, express these things in a way that would be my art?
It is perhaps a kind of empathy, perhaps a synchrony, that I find these writers that speak to my heart, that somehow in a moment taken in a bookstore, a few lines at random, I read them and think they hold great beauty, decide to buy the book as a form of acknowledgment to the writer, and to myself. I am almost certain of this, but still it is a bit of a mystery, the way it is with a bit of light that comes from a painting, or the emotion felt at reading a poem that can make us feel closer to something greater than what seems like our humdrum lives. In spite of how deep the subconsciousness appears, we manage to pass over the bridge.