Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Poetry Lense

Last semester, while deeply immersed in my astronomy course, I discovered a handy little impliment called a defraction grating. It looks like a normal photo slide, but without any image on it. It's made of cardboard and cheap plastic. When you look through it though... every particle of light is bent into its seperate wavelenths, and the world becomes a sea of rainbows. It's a beautiful, magical, scientific wonder. I have one myself, a gift from my teacher in the aforementioned class. I look through it from time to time, just to remind myself that the rainbows are still there, just out of sight.

I know I've written about my defraction grating before, in one of my first posts - so my apologies if it's old news to you. I wanted to share it again, though, for a new purpose. I've recently been assigned to read a work of Japanese fiction in my World Literature class - The Narrow Road of the Interior. It's about a pair of poets that go off on a trip to travel the countryside, getting ideas for their work and putting in some quality time with their spiritual improvements. Everywhere they go, if they see something that inspires them they write a Haiku about it. Some, they take with them; but others they leave behind, tacked to doorframes or settled between two rocks, waiting for another traveler to discover them.

I think this is a brilliant idea. I might just leave a couplet on the door of the fine arts center tomorrow, just to see what happens. But why, you ask, would I want to leave bits of literature on public structures? Well, think back to the defraction grating. You see everything as normally lit and normally colored when you look at it with your normal eyes. Through the defraction grating, however, the world becomes colorful and bright. I think that poetry is supposed to work this way. It's a little window into the way the poet views the world, a place where ordinary things, in the words of William Wordsworth, "Through turnings intricate of verse, present themselves as objects recognized, and shining with a glory not their own."

For example, my father gave me a poem of his to read last week. I will not detail it here, for I don't have his express permission to do so. Suffice it to say that it related winter images to a religion, such as stooping "Pine monks of the monastic order" or a tree's "bare limbs trace stained glass window panes." It was beautiful work, but I didn't notice the really beautiful part of it until the next day, when I saw just such bare tree limbs "crisscrossed high against the sky." It took me a moment to remember why I was thinking of a cathedral as I looked at the tree. I soon realized that my father had done the magical thing poetry is supposed to do - giving those ordinary objects their own shining glory, so that I will come to better understand them in the literal world.

This is why I like the idea of leaving poems behind us when we travel. I don't say everyone ought to do this - its a rare person who can whip a poem out of their pocket on such short notice. But just imagine! What would it be like to see the same object, be it building or brick, through the grating of someone else's soul? How different would the world become if we could see it not only in our own way, but in the way others do as well? How different would those others become to us? What new magic and glory would we see in the world through their eyes, minds, and hearts?

Just something to think about. I don't say we must all go write a poem tomorrow - but you might try it sometime when you feel so inspired. I shall certainly be looking for an opportunity with bated breath.

May the wind be at your backs, my friends. 'Til next time...


  1. Rachel, You write so beautifully. You have the makings of a writer who will touch other's lives. I'm so proud of you and the beautiful young woman you have become. You have an ability - like you wrote about in this entry and like the title of your blog - to see the magic and poetry in everyday things. Love you! Mom

  2. Dear Rachel,
    Do you understand what a remarkable gift you have? The idea that you wrote this piece off the cuff in one sitting is remarkable to me. You are an exceptional writer with so much to give to the world. You keep writing! So many will be blessed to see the world through the window of your soul. I know that I have been today and too many other times to count. You have a great gift. Love Dad

  3. "WOW!" That was just about all she could say, "WOW!" Absolutely beautiful, Niece Radiance...YOU and the blog entry. <3 U