And Everyone Wanted to Pour His Wine28.02.2019
And Everyone Wanted to Pour His Wine
En Vino Veritas (Truth is in the Wine)
This sky – like an infinite tenderness
and never yet have I described it
I can’t. Somehow, I never will…
and wave after wave, the ocean smells like lilacs in late August.
— Franz Wright
The poet, just like the detective from the movie Alphaville, is here to save the planet from the ruthless claws of the techno-totalitarian. The only question that remains is, “What can transform darkness into light?” And the answer is…poetry.
In the art of writing poetry, what one accumulates is uncertainties. In this field, where expertise invites doom, internal chaos becomes the most frequent state of mind. Whether the poem is about love, loss, death or boredom it contains flashes of panic and doubt, despair and disillusionment, mixed notions of adolescence and maturity, and loss of meaning. Like any type of confrontation, poetry writing involves the fear of not being understood, ridicule and failure. In these moments of internal panic, a glass of red wine can serve as a mediator between the writer and his muse. “This wine is my blood,” as said in the Bible, “and it contains the truth, the light and the way (En Vino Veritas).”
Like a bird’s song that has no meaning, a poem creates a space in which meaning comes to have its face pressed up against the glass waiting to come out. Like a shaman, the glass of wine is the mediator between spirit and the body, as well as mind and language. Writing poetry is a visceral experience that restores the physiology of the poet’s breath and the movements of the writer’s hand during the process of composition.
Always on the brink of the unknown, the poet is vacillating between a sense of extreme confidence and extreme doubt. The glass of wine becomes an instrument through which the darkness is pulled out of us. Romance and lyricism are as connected to poetry as they are to wine, which provides depth, honesty and spontaneity – all required for the perfect poem.
Like wine, the poem invites confrontation with memory and experience, perspective and reflection, truthfulness to the meaning of lived experience. It changes the relation of memory to time, of darkness to light, of life to death, and by doing so, emphasizes the fleetingness of existence. Poetry is made of emotional experiences; meditation, interpretation and re-interpretation of what is real, which makes the realism as the ultimate and the most difficult imaginative stance for a poet – an always new way of dreaming about the world. Poetry returns us to our bewilderment as an invitation to something we can’t quite know or understand. Yet, we still want to experience the sensation. The sound of words leaping just beyond our capacity to know them certainly.
As Sylvia Plath once said, poetry is a tyrannical discipline. You’ve got to go so far, so fast in such a small space that you’ve just got to turn away all the peripherals. The poems are as much about what they are not saying, as they are about what they say. As if they are listening, rather than speaking. As if the poems have ears. The poet is a witness. A kind of reporter from the field, and this lends his voice and odd objectivity – common to the tone we find throughout the Bible. In our secular society, poetry is obligated to undertake a function of faith that elevates man to a higher reality and awareness. Through a ceremonial language without any doctrines of separation – poetry calls for confession without sinning or harboring any feelings of guilt or remorse. Poetry cleanses the reader like a splash of holy water. Like a good poem, a good wine opens our ears to the voices of the unknown by avoiding rational thinking and common conclusions by allowing us to smell the sweet perfumed oils from our past.
Poetry and wine both bind us to bewilderment, to an identity before each of us knew that “I” was an “I” when the speaker was proverbial. Who are we before we even come into the world? It is almost as if we are all part of God, and then the world itself adopts us. More often than not the poet writes about what he or she is most afraid to speak of so that it might come to light – to come home. This ego is not secure. This “I” is almost spinning centrifugally, taking in more decades and more generations as the poem progresses and the writer coaxes this “I” persona home in this muttering dervish with his swirling movements almost like the object struggling to become the subject. As the symbol trying to become real to herself. Like good wine, good poetry tends to distance us from our egos and allows us to imagine the world without the “I”. To see all of it going on without me. The “I” is simply gone. Stuffed like a coin inside of a dead man’s pocket and buried for eternity.
The wonder of this notion will linger long after without a resolution, and what will remain is love of an unfamiliar, and yet shocking reality that leaves us bewildered and astonished.
Henry James wrote, “If we were never bewildered, there would never be a story to tell about us.” Good wine is like a muse that helps us bring out that story. The greatest poets are not those who use words better, but those who are better used by words. Wine makes us talkative and, as the great contemporary Chinese poet Jidi Majia says, “The words start dancing on the tip of my tongue in front of the gates of eternity and my speech starts with a prayer to God.” In the name of truth, the poet, like God, is looking for the harmonious state of being – for the perfect form and order. The poetic impulse itself is the desire to explode, to carry some weight, a common passion for every perfect structure and architecture.
Writing poetry requires the sacrifice of the ego – an act which wine makes so much easier, because the poetic line does not come from the ego. It comes from the unknown. From the outside world. From the sky.
Love, poetry and wine are inseparable in my biography and indelibly tied to my memories.
He was her teacher. He had free-flowing golden hair like Jesus – wearing a loose, white shirt, unbuttoned, when she first met him at the party. He was young and handsome, elaborate with his words. Speaking in parables, just like Jesus, and everyone wanted to pour his wine. He dedicated a poem to her. She believed in him and followed him like Mary Magdalene and was there next to him when he died. Today, decades later, when she remembers him (even in her dreams), she takes two glasses and fills them with red wine. First, his glass, and then her own. From that day on, she is unable to watch any sunset without a glass of wine in her hands or read a single line of poetry without the taste of red wine on the tip of her tongue. She is my mother.