Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The aptitude for exile

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Photo: D. Kirkup Designs

As I prepare for a span of travel in order to nurture more of a book into being, words of poet Jane Hirshfield describe perfectly what I hear echoing in my heart. It remains something of wonderment for me, how such spiritual company unfailingly appears as we make our way along our path:

“Originality requires the aptitude for exile. The physical exile of writers from Po Chu-i to Joseph Brodsky and, in her own way, Dickinson, is the outcome of their willingness to travel first the roads of the independent mind. Such independence may be of ideas, or it may be of style; in the end, the two are the same. As is the result: a solitude that, however difficult, is also held in affection …

“But
originality is also a question, a request we make of ourselves and the world. We ask it in the quality of our attention and concentration, and we ask it without expectation of an answer. Such a request, self-raised, self-contained, ripens itself.

To look closely with the attention of questioning changes everything. It is, if undertaken fully, revolutionary.”

Read more from the writer at Zen and the Art of Poetry: An interview with Jane Hirshfield by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler in Agni magazine: http://www.bu.edu/agni/interviews/online/2006/towler.html