Beach rocks jutting up from liquid churn
pebbles in the sea
Cheek bones beneath my lover’s face
What are they to me?
Hard things shape and hold in place
The softness of the earth.
Bones and stones support the shape
That rends all beauty’s birth.
—John H. Richards
I’ve been reading through a collection of my father’s poetry lately in search of text to use as the basis of a choral piece . . . or two. In the process I have discovered a similarity of vision between my father and I. We both very frequently draw relationships between love and nature. Although, in poetry, this is frequently expressed via metaphor, or interpreted as description, the poet knows that both description and metaphor are both indications of understanding. I think many have the false impression that a poet merely uses metaphors and adjectives to describe things, whereas I think a more accurate interpretation is that the poet actually understands things in terms and metaphors and adjectives. The poetry is simply a communicable demonstration of an underlying thought process: as waves swell so does one’s heart, when hands are clasped worlds do indeed collide, and as stars swirl in the heavens spirits soar to meet them.
It seems I have inherited this world-view.
This, to me, is one of the reasons I value art. It is a perspective, not just an articulated edifice. It is evidence of an inner world, not just an artificial construction. Through art we are allowed a glimpse of what another sees and feels, and that communication from one individual to another is a remarkably valuable experience that can humble, teach, anger, frustrate, and ultimately affect. Artifice may impress, but vision illuminates.
I’ve encountered too many in my studies who forget about the vision, and the communication of the individual behind the art. They have become craftsman, a rather noble trade, but craftsman are unfortunately and rather frequently alienated from the product of their labor. Their individuality soon ceases to be valued. They soon cease to value their own individuality. More on this later.
The fire of our gaze, still and just,
Lights brighter than the rising sun
And our embrace is cooler than the silent fish
Beneath our feet.
We kiss, unite,
The sky explodes
And we have caused the dawn.
—John H. Richards