A Poet’s Meditations on Inspiration and Hope

However artists might lie to themselves or others in their personal lives, art-making is involuntarily truth-telling.
poetry news, how to write poetry, how to find inspiration, what is inspiration, new platforms for art, new platforms for poetry, culture news, writing news, writers’ news, Yahia Lababidi poetry

Decorations at a poetry-reading event in Bucharest, Romania, 14/07/2017 © Ana Maria Tone / Shutterstock

December 21, 2019 04:00 EDT

A poem arrives like a hand in the dark.

Who knows where inspiration comes from, and where it goes. I submit that even artists don’t — at least not yours truly. After something of a dry patch, where I began to refer to myself as an “ex-writer,” I find that I’m writing poetry, again: three new pieces I’m pleased with, actually, in the past three days — a feat I’ve not achieved in years, possibly decades.

Blogging — something that I swore up and down I’d never do — has, certainly, helped to kickstart my creativity. For one, it forced this old dog to learn new tricks, since I began posting on a social blockchain by the name of Steem, where I was paid in cryptocurrency. Also, one of the boons of joining a new community that thinks differently has been collaborating with other creative souls: visual artists who illustrated my writing as well as accomplished musicians who put my words to song, or transformed it into new art.

Inspired by this dynamic online platform and challenged by the new network of creative thinkers that I’ve become a part of, I find that I’m writing more and differently — so much so that I’ve begun to polish pieces I’ve posted on Steemit in order to include them as part of a forthcoming book of prose and poetry that I’m putting the finishing touches to, tentatively titled “Truths & Fictions.”

Ultimately, I think the mysterious creative process has something to do with humility, desperation even, and the intensity of the conversation we are having with ourselves.  Then, there is the spiritual dimension to consider. As with life, perhaps, the fewer expectations we have of our art, the more fully we are able to surrender — admitting to ourselves that creativity is, ultimately, beyond our control — the more likely we are to be visited and helped by our muse. 

In the wise words of the 13th-century Egyptian Sufi mystic Ibn Ata Allah, “If you want gifts to come your way, then perfect the spiritual poverty [al-faqr] you have.” Art, after all, is a product of authenticity. However artists might lie to themselves or others in their personal lives, art-making is involuntarily truth-telling. When we truly dare to lay our soul bare, we find that we are able to reach strangers; only what springs from the heart reaches the heart.

As an immigrant and a Muslim, I’m increasingly concerned with how to ease souls in these troubled times we live in. Mostly, poetry is the best answer that I have. Below, is a new poem that I hope might help remind us to keep hope alive.

The Light-keepers

Hope is a lighthouse
(or, at least, a lamppost)
someone must keep vigil
to illumine this possibility

In the dark, a poet will climb
narrow, unsteady stairs
to gaze past crashing waves
and sing us new horizons

Others, less far-sighted, might
be deceived by the encroaching night
mistake the black for lasting, but
not those entrusted with trimming wicks

Their tasks are more pressing—
winding clockworks, replenishing oil-
there is no time for despair
when tending to the Light.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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