Sabine Miller & Richard Gilbert
from Poetry as Consciousness (extract 1)
dried rose petals and thistles on watercolor paper
Poems … are waiting to be perceived. They “see you”; some may be too hot and need time to cool off to be touched (the poem resists the reader’s desire for meaning). Others need warmth: the fires of insight behind one’s eyes suddenly spark, sensing invitations to depth.
Our world is made of keys—cars, doors, logins, proper manners, forms of greeting, situational responses, making conversation. We judge and evaluate ceaselessly. We are often “typing” unconsciously. Perhaps gracefully as well, but aren’t we missing something, socially? Within the egalitarian arrangements of our categorized “fragments” of persons, relations and things, are there wholes that remain invisible among our daily utilities?
To seek the perception of the unique is also to be sought. We seek participation and are lucky to encounter it, whether in a person or an artwork, and this dual perception is rare—a depth akin to aesthetic arrest: in whatever we find artful enough that the mind is stopped and the world for moments becomes holistic in perception, untypeable into any schema, category, set of qualities, properties, gender or genre, and impossible to divide into fact versus fiction. In such moments, what has hitherto been least tangible arises as matchless fulfillment of reality.
Our poem under purview may be arranged as furrows in a field or brow, feel of a specific or timeless age, be born in some far country or written next door. We may note the identity, gender, age and such of the author, at some point. And all this will matter again soon, just as it mattered, if differently, before. But in the perception of the unique, as Wallace Stevens said, “the lion roars at the enraging desert.” This roar, incommensurate with any other, is everything we are. Without this roar, an impeccable cry of intimate, incomparable being, there can be no seeking of deeper truth—this is the roar of the heart’s rage in
The desert of modernity … [when] the heart has no reaction to what it faces, thereby turning the variegated sensuous face of the world into monotony, sameness, oneness. What is passive, immobile, asleep in the heart creates a desert that can only be cured by its own parenting principle that shows its awakening by roaring…. The more our desert the more we must rage, which rage is love. The passions of the soul make the desert habitable. The desert … is anywhere once we desert the heart…. The desert beast is our guardian in the desert of modern bureaucracy, ugly urbanism, academic trivialities, professional official soullessness, the desert of our ignoble condition. We fear that rage. We dare not roar … we let the little lions sleep in front of the television…(Hillman, James. A Blue Fire. NY: Routledge, 1989.)
Rage here means that we are willing to fight for our need for depth and won’t stand for less … The perception of the unique unavoidably involves the recognition that we too often live within psychic wastelands—environments composed of fragments of things measured against each other, sliced, diced and categorized in various ways. Decent though our environments may be, and decent though we may be, concerning value, normative perception and normative consciousness are not enough.
To love is also to be loved in being perceived as unique—this experience also occurs within passions and obsessions (non-derogative) of taste, activity and poetic craft. Consider those moments when knowledge falls away in rapture. It’s not just being “head-over-heels,” but the forgetting of self that’s important: direct involvement beyond “measure,” a deepened experience of embodiment. The perception of the unique leads to embodied consciousness rooted in immeasurables of depth and metaphor.
tulip petal pulp, lily pollen, lemon juice, water, and Elmer’s glue on watercolor paper
Sabine Miller started experimenting with using flowers as paint/brushes in the woods of Lagunitas, California in the late nineties. She now lives over the hill in San Rafael, where she writes, paints, and studies qigong. A chapbook of poems, Branch to Finch, was published by Ornithopter Press in 2016. More of her “floragrams” and watercolor collages can be found at Otoliths.
Richard Gilbert studied with Beat poets Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, and Gary Snyder at Naropa University. Japanese haiku became a focus, under the tutelage of Patricia Donegan. He earned a Ph.D. in Poetics and Depth Psychology at the Union Institute and University in 1990. In 1997, he moved to Japan to pursue Japanese haiku research. He is currently Professor, Graduate School of Social and Cultural Sciences, at Kumamoto University. Poetry as Consciousness: Haiku Forests, Space of Mind and an Ethics of Freedom (Keibunsha, 2018) follows The Disjunctive Dragonfly: A New Approach to English-Language Haiku (Red Moon Press, 2013). A previous word/art collaboration with Sabine Miller appears here.