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.
These are lines from a poem sent to me by a friend: “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 these lines, but they 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