Friday, April 17, 2009

Creativity and something rooted

One of the most amazing TED videos I've ever seen is Elizabeth Gilbert's recent talk on nurturing creativity. In it, she talks about the societal pressures that a writer, artist or any creative being has to deal with and muses on the idea that maybe we could relieve some of those pressures if we viewed our "genius" and our selves as separate entities. That maybe, our inspiration is outside of ourselves and it is all we can do to capture it and bring it to life so that we can share it, in the form that we know and have been put on this earth to create, with the rest of the world.

She uses as an example the American poet Ruth Stone, who's now in her 90s. When Ruth was working in rural Virginia, she said that sometimes she would feel a poem coming at her like a "thunderous train of air" across the landscape. It would shake the earth, and when she felt this inspiration coming, Ruth would "run like hell" to her house, so that when the poem barreled through her, she could collect it. If she didn't make it in time to her pen, the poem would continue on looking for another poet. The times when she almost missed it, Ruth would catch the poem by its tail and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing and "the poem would come up on the page, perfect and intact, but backwards from the last word to the first."

That is one of the most interesting things I've ever heard about creative inspiration and expression. Take 20 minutes of your day to watch this video if you find passion or love in creating anything at all; you will appreciate it.

And, in honor of April being National Poetry Month, I am posting one of my favorite modern poems. When I first read it, I unfurled myself at its feet. It is composed of three parts; the second part is always at my side, and the third was, for a long time. And I'm sure it will be again.

Suddenly, I Need One Thing Constant
by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie

Poets should just
bring poetry
blank books and pens
passports and visas
and something rooted
something rooted
for the lives we will
eventually want
not the imitations
of our mentors' stumblings
the ancient lovers never loved
upheaval following us
like stubborn ghosts
poets should bring something rooted


Wherever I go
I drag my mistakes
and my memory of the mistakes
of others. Wherever I go
I have to tell my stories
of crashings and rantings
and passion and laughing
of praying of living
and forgetting how to breathe

wherever I go
I start again:
a woman hates me
a man loves me
I meet people
I write
then I wonder, what is that far off sound
that call from another side of the ocean
what’s the name of that place
what language do they speak
how much does it cost to get there
and then I’m gone
leaving behind everything I wished for
making another list


Stay with me.
Wherever I go
I want you
with me, among
the pens and blank
pages, yes, but
in the bed and bathroom
in the restaurants
with food we can’t pronounce
your hand smoothing the tired map,
mine tracing our route

with me
as much as writing
as much as wandering
I know I need to start my days
folded in your scent


  1. Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk is on my list to watch soon. I loved her book. I'll have to move her talk higher on my priority list based on your review. Thanks. -heza

  2. @Heather D. - She is amazing. I've watched it twice and will probably watch it again...