2.02.2010

Finding Our White Space

stillness in the white space
Poetry is one of my favorite forms of expression. It wields strength by virtue of its delicacy. It invigorates through its fragility. It expresses majesty in its simplicity. And in the seemingly quiet white space between and among the lines, poetry resonates with emotion, imagination, and universal truths.

The pauses at the end of lines or stanzas are as deep breaths – our way to fully absorb what’s come before in order to ready ourselves for what comes next. I find most often that it’s in these white spaces that the story can best be realized – not only the story that is being told to us, but the story of ourselves as our own story is revealed by and relates to what we’re reading.

Some people don’t like poetry because it’s confusing. Do these same people, I wonder, find it confusing to be still and quiet? Allowing ourselves to fully explore and experience the white space of poetry and of our own lives means exploring and experiencing ourselves. Such exploration is often difficult – shameful, embarrassing, uncomfortable. Such exploration, however, can truly be marvelous – soothing, revelatory, affirming. In poetry – which I feel is just another form of storytelling – we can find the comfort of knowing we’re not alone. And in the white spaces we can breathe in that knowledge that we’re not alone, we’re not lost.

A friend sent me these lines from a memoir by Bibi Wein, THE WAY HOME: A Wilderness Journey: “Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you / Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here…Stand still. The forest knows / Where you are. You must let it find you.” I have always appreciated the meaning of this passage, but these lines have recently come to mean something far more tangible to me than I could ever expect. Last week I found myself in literal white space – the only person on a morning-glazed snow-powdered ski slope. I paused. I took a deep breath. And as icy snowflakes fell onto my face, I experienced overwhelming joy at being a part of something larger; something majestic in its simplicity. I absorbed what had come before and readied myself for whatever was going to come next.

With each new experience, our own stories are enriched. Just as when we find ourselves in the white space of poetry and story. We pause. We take a deep breath. We leave something unsaid, but fully realized.


(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC

12 comments:

  1. Nicely said, Emma. Thank you. So many people shy away from poetry when, really, it is by far one of the more accessible forms of communication. When I go into high schools the students always want to write poetry... the older the get, the more shielded we become. As you said, the secret is to remain open.

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  2. Kids want to write poetry, but unless it's "accissible" (i.e. the poet doesn't feel the need to make readers work too hard to understand meaning), they often don't want to read it. There are exceptions, of course. :-) Keeping poetry acessible is good. Keeping our emotions acessible is good, too. Thanks, Emma.

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  3. Oops... "accessible".... darn fingers!

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  4. Yes, and of course leaving things unsaid is just as important in other forms of writing....

    Thanks for this!

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  5. Your last line is absolutely beautiful and just about the most perfect thing I've read in a long while.

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  6. Oh what a thing of beauty this particular offering from you is! I hesitate to call it a blog post. How can I apply such an ugly name to the artistry you bring to self-expression? Thank you for continuing to stretch the boundaries of what a web log can achieve, and for inspiring a new scene in my novel.

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  7. Yes!
    Sighing here, happy in white space.
    :)

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  8. Thank you so much for this. It's what I needed to have validated today, and what needed to be said. And an argument for paper pages, as well, I feel, where the words can just rest. I have some similar commentary up on my blog now, about waiting to see where an author's voice might carry you.

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  9. Thank you for these wonderful comments! As writers, we need to feel safe in the white space, in the quiet between the lines. And as people grappling with this turbulent world, we need to allow solace in those same white spaces.

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  10. Speaking to teens tomorrow and planning to share that line breaks are like their heartbeats, their breath. :~)

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  11. Hey Emma, I just bounced here from your 4/15/14 post at your prompting and I love your total appreciation of verse!! I cannot say thank you enough!

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