As the holiday season begins to escalate, commentator Rawlins Gilliland sees poetry all around us.
Years ago, when I first became a poet in residence, my efforts to teach others taught me what it is to see life through a poet’s eyes; to elevate our shared human experience beyond life’s tedium. Whether writing about fears and loss or joyful good fortune, to more lyrically observe the poetry of living in a world we merely visit.
Before that residency, my several years backpacking globally convinced me; everyone’s life story is an epic saga lyric poem to be imagined no less than reading Homer’s "Odyssey" or Longfellow’s "Evangeline." At our best, we are all poets at heart fighting a losing battle; to happily live on this planet indefinitely.
They say poets look at life through rose-colored glasses but I’d say it’s through high-resolution binoculars with a pastel tint. As poets mature with age, personal histories - bygone eras no more visible today than the fabled Atlantis - are shared as mythic lore. Time-traveled poets retell the past in rich detail because it has forever been their nature to look closely.
As a boy raised by artists, the poetry of life was inescapable. When Mother played Debussy on the piano or Dad played a recording of Gershwin’s "An American In Paris," this was nothing less than audible poetry. Grandmother’s watermelon rind pickles, the crisp cloves exploding with each crunchy bite, tasted poetic. And when Mother immersed the house ceiling to floor in painted coats of vivid color, the surface shades spoke to us as visual poets.
Poetry in written form is, to me, when the abstract sound of combined words speaks more to us than how any verse is literally defined. This is why listening to someone conversing in a foreign language can be captivating. With no cognizance of what is being said and undistracted by context, we merely hear the purity of sound. How can that not be a metaphor for life’s mystery? That while it seems to some prosaic, poets savor the inscrutable.
Focusing on life though an ethereal lens, hope springs eternal. As poets very much alive, we know each day tomorrow we’ll have memories of things that today have yet to happen. We know as poets the person we miss terribly is sometimes someone we have yet to meet. That’s the wonder in a child’s eyes playing with a puppy. Or in mine seeing the branches of trees in winter silhouetted without leaves against a moonlit sky.
So, as the year begins its descent to conclusion no less than a starship long in flight, may I share, as one poet to another, a holiday wish: That we marvel often at the gift of life we’ve all been loaned. That we daily honor how, with or all its ups and downs - and occasional crash landings - our time on Earth is any poet’s ride of a lifetime.
Rawlins Gilliland's poems are currently being featured in the downtown Dallas Neiman Marcus holiday windows.