Sunday, April 27, 2008

A poem helped answer the question I asked myself

Doug posed himself a question on his blog: "Why Am I Doing This?" I think that may have essentially been the question I was asking myself earlier today...which was also an examination of the legitimacy of writing my thoughts in a public forum.

This evening on our public radio station news anchor Andrea Seabrook interviewed Edward Hirsch, who has just published a book of his poetry called "Special Orders". Here is his poem, "Self Portrait"

I live between my heart and my head like a married couple who can't get along.
I live between my left arm which is swift and sinister and my right, which is righteous.
I live between a laugh and a scowl, and voted against myself, a two-party system.
My left leg dawdled or danced along; my right cleaved to the straight and narrow.
My left shoulder was like a stripper on vacation
My right stood upright as a Roman soldier.
Let's just say that my left side was the organ donor and leave my private parts alone.
But as for my eyes, which are two shades of brown, well, Dionysus, meet Apollo.
Look at Eve raising her left eyebrow while Adam puts his right foot down.
No one expected it to survive, but divorce seemed out of the question.
I suppose my left hand and my right hand will be clasped over my chest in the coffin and I'll be reconciled at last:
I'll be whole again

When he finished reading they shared a laugh.

Seabrook: "It's so personal, and sooooo universal, oh my God, who hasn't had the experience of being completely split in two."

Hirsch: "Well thank you for saying so...I mean I thought of it--you know it's a self portrait--I thought of it as a completely personal poem but I've had a wonderful experience with different readers who have identified it when it turns out that everyone seems to have this experience of being completely riven between your, your heart or your passions and your mind and your reason."

Seabrook: "Isn't that right there the basic guts of human experience, I think."

Hirsch: "That's what you're trying to get at, to get down as far as you can get viscerally to where your own obsessions are and hope that they're also the obsessions of other people and really get at what is most essential using your own experience... but what is most essential about human experience."

Then I remembered why I do it. There is something liberating about being able strip an 'obsession' down to its essence, and a deep relief and joy in finding that other humans share that experience. Sometimes other people's observations enlighten me...and sometimes I've had the pleasure of hearing that mine express their truths too. It's a gift that keeps on giving: there is release for me in being able to describe to myself the essence of an experience--and it's indescribable when someone else resonates with it.

It's funny as hell is what it is.

And I love a good laugh.

1 comment:

Douglas W said...


That's why it's worth doing. And you see... even I ask "Why am I doing this?" at times.

Be true to yourself and your blog will become your Self Portrait, just like the poem you quoted - sometimes doubting yourself; sometimes out there and confident; sometimes laughing; sometimes crying.