The incantatory consolation of language

Sage CohenUncategorizedLeave a Comment

When there is nothing to be done, there is language. More specifically, says poet Gregory Orr, we can turn to “the incantatory consolation of language” to help us navigate our deepest darknesses.

In his expansive conversation with On Being’s Krista Tippett about Shaping Grief with Language, Orr speaks about how lyric poetry was his path of transformation through a tragic hunting accident in which he accidentally shot and killed his younger brother at the age of 12.

He says, “…What made me a poet the moment…I wrote my first terrible poem, was the discovery that language in poetry is magical language…It summons a world into being.” By dramatizing both our experience of disorder and our need for order, says Orr, reading and writing poetry helps transmute the unbearable to our own personal liturgy, through which we may ultimately find our way.

I believe we can make even the most implausible crossings in poems. Which is why I created the Poem Medicine ritual. As we gathered in an intimate circle last month to shine a collective light into our unspoken places, we wrote ourselves through fear, pain, and regret toward greater resolution, hope, and healing.

You can, too.

To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That’s crudely put, but …
If we’re not supposed to dance,
Why all this music?”

— Gregory Orr

Poems help sustain the spark that no wound can snuff out. They keep our ear attuned to the music and our bodies awake to the dance.

What poem/s help you navigate your most complicated places? Could it be time to read or write something new that welcomes you more deeply into the alchemies of loss and learning?

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