how to begin

posted on 07 Sep 2012 12:01 by Elena Pinto Simon
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by Pablo Neruda


And it was at that age … Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

Pablo Naruda

This poem has haunted me most of my adult life.
Its elegance, fluidity, and layered messages have long been an inspiration –
to begin, to start, to start over.

I originally thought it spoke about the confusion of the young trying to create.
But as I grew older it became even more resonant – and realized it was
an anthem about hope and renewal.

Writing is hard. Not writing makes it hard.

And that moment of starting, facing the blank page, can be terrifying , startling,
and then, liberating.

It’s a good poem for the start of a new academic year.

And here we are on an early September morning; most of our classes have now met
once, and we are all poised to begin again, make our own way,
and work for that moment when the heavens unfasten and open, and we stare at the sky,
waiting for arrows, fire, and flowers.