Day: March 30, 2009

tiny thoughts about writing and the interpretation of poetry…

So I woke up this morning and pulled a book off the shelf.  It was this:

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him lecture a few times.  One time he was talking about writing as an act of LOVE.

Anyway, last night there was a question posed in my blog behind the scenes about one of RUMI’s poems.  I’m going to attempt to answer that — it is delicate?

In many different ways.

So, what Bradbury talked about was how he had been writing since he was a young boy and that all of the events of his life –and all of the people he met along the way — and all of the things that had ever happened to him get folded in to his stories.

I think that is true for all writers.

Now, what happens when somebody “reads” a writer?

Well, that is going to be different for everyone isn’t it?

It is,

Because when you read something you filter it through your own experience.  Your own life — in a way?

So, the author has an intimacy with the reader on the page.  This invisible thing is between the two of them — this “felt sense” — of something.

One of the things about poetry?

There are so many different ways to do it — but usually it is the most condensed form of trying to impart something.  So, a poet will tend to use a lot of metaphor in things as a way to describe without actually saying?

It is an ART to be able to do this!  Truly.

So, the questions behind the scenes last night were these:

rum “i am dust particles in sunlight”

and this:

why does rumi tell the bits of dust to s

and this:

different religions of the world

These three questions all fit together.

So, I am going to attempt to explain what my interpretation of this poem means — for you.

It may not mean the same thing to you?

But that is the beauty of poetry, and this poem is one of the most beautiful in the world to me — because it is metaphysical.  I’m going to tell you what I see in it…

Say I am You

I am dust particles in sunlight.
I am the round sun.

To the bits of dust I say, Stay.
To the sun, Keep moving.

I am morning mist,
and the breathing of evening.
I am wind in the top of a grove,
and surf on the cliff.

Mast, rudder, helmsman, and keel,
I am also the coral reef they founder on.

I am a tree with a trained parrot in its branches.
Silence, thought, and voice.

The musical air coming through a flute,
a spark of stone, a flickering in metal.
Both candle and the moth crazy around it.
Rose, and the nightingale lost in the fragrance.

I am all orders of being, the circling galaxy,
the evolutionary intelligence, the lift, and the falling away.

What is, and what isn’t.

You who know, Jelaluddin,
You the one in all, say who I am.
Say I am you.

For me, this ancient poem is very similar to Indian or Buddhist thought.  It is a religious text.

“I am dust particles in sunlight.
I am the round sun.”

For me this conjures up a very early memory of lying in bed as a child and watching the magic of dust particles in a ray of sunlight coming through the window.  I believe what RUMI is saying is that he is also made of those things.  That as a human being he is part of the eternal — the all.

To the bits of dust I say, Stay.
To the sun, Keep moving.

For me this means, “never stop this turning” — this is almost a pause — for me it means — never stop the magic of the way these bits of dust are shimmering in the air.

I am morning mist,
and the breathing of evening.
I am wind in the top of a grove,
and surf on the cliff.

Here he is saying that he (as a human being) is made of these things.  He is part mist, part wind, part sea.  I see this also as “moods” — if natural things can be ascribed to the moods of mankind.  Some days we rush about like the wind — other days we feel the calm peace of a sunset inside?  We are also the mist and the sea.

Mast, rudder, helmsman, and keel,
I am also the coral reef they founder on.

Here the poet refers to himself as a boat on the sea.  This is a reference to living one’s life — that we as human beings are like boats on the sea.  When he says he is also the coral reef — he means the storms and curves and sharp things people go through in their lives.  That not all of life is a smooth sail in sunset glow.  The poet admits that there are hidden reefs — sharp reefs one must navigate.  This is true for all people in the world.  For all people’s lives.

I am a tree with a trained parrot in its branches.
Silence, thought, and voice.

Here I feel the poet refers to himself as a writer.  He is talking about the act of writing and the winds that pass through a writer’s soul.  This parrot?  The words from his lips and his hand.

The musical air coming through a flute,
a spark of stone, a flickering in metal.
Both candle and the moth crazy around it.
Rose, and the nightingale lost in the fragrance.

Here the poet is one with all of the images above.  He uses nature again to say he is also these things — there is a lot of the metaphysical in the way he is speaking about these things.  Without the flautist can the music come through the flute?  Without the candle would the moth have anything to circle?  It is the relationship of moth to candle or rose and nightingale that holds the spiritual aspects.

I am all orders of being, the circling galaxy,
the evolutionary intelligence, the lift, and the falling away.

What is, and what isn’t.

Here he says that he is part of everything, and even the spaces between things — that cannot be seen.

There are many religions in the world that are like this — with these sorts of beliefs.  You can look to those who believe in reincarnation for example.  If you think about the way this poems starts with the dust particles in sunlight — he is talking about that.  To the dust he says “stay” and to the sun “keep moving” — the poet is trying to describe life?

You who know, Jelaluddin,
You the one in all, say who I am.
Say I am you.

Here the poet refers to “the divine” — he asks himself “you the one in all” — meaning a part of him is also a part of everything — and vice versa — is also a part of “the holy” —

When the poet says “Say I am you” — my interpretation of this is that the poet sees himself as a ray of that which is most divine, most holy and most unknowable? The ray of light shimmering down from the heavens can be seen as emanating from the divine source — of which the poet’s life is only one part?

There are some religions on earth where the holy is so sacred it cannot even be depicted?

There are some religions on earth where what is holy can only be seen in the space of dust particles glimmering magically in sunlight?  Or the space between what is the moth’s attraction to the candle?

It is that holiness that this poem is about.

Colman Barks did the translation of that poem, and so, I can only give you my interpretation of what he interpreted?

What is most important in reading poetry?

Is what is says to you!

All the poets of this world or worlds past are like magicians.

This is an English Poet:

William Blake.  Look at what he said in this poem, and you will see that he and Rumi knew the same things about life — is he not saying the same thing here?  As RUMI said? Hundreds of years later.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.