Pitchers and Catchers

Veriddyi 2
“Veriddyi 2″, a recent painting (and one that speaks to my ongoing longing to envision that first day of creation)

One of my favorite quotes comes by way of W. S. Piero from his book of essays, Out of Eden: “Certain artists give up the making of representational images so that they can see through traditional iconography to the world as it could have been seen only on the first day of creation.”

The longing for this primeval envisioning speaks to many of the aspects of art making that resemble a monastic practice (which I wrote about here). For those of us who are in search for that primordial sense of things, that usually means that voyaging there alone.

By pronouncing his credo as “truth is a pathless land,” Krishnamurti disavowed his alliance with the Theosophists (who were grooming him carefully) as well as with any religion, nationality or philosophy. That essential tension between going it alone and doing it with a group has been a recurring theme in my life. I was raised in a very structured religious setting where rules, obedience and participation in the community are core values. Whether in the domain of spiritual practice or of art making, I’m very clear about one thing: I am not designed for joining.

From the poet Kazim Ali:

You can search alongside others, but I don’t think others can help you understand your own nature…I’ve always been on my own, a single person in the field of physical matter, on his back looking up into oblivion…

To join with others in a gesture of similitude—I can’t draw anything from that, or at least at the moment have not been able to do so. I’d rather be wandering in a trance through the streets of a busy city, peeling an orange and whispering to the universe than sitting in a pew listening to a sermon or kneeling on a rug reciting chapters.

In the introduction to their book, A God in the House: Poets Talk About Faith, Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler give poetry (or more broadly art making) a memorable positioning:

In the end, what poetry and faith share, perhaps more than anything else, is a sense of awe. In awe is the beginning of a life of wonder. Or, as the poet Jack Spicer put it, in an American idiom: “Poets think they are pitchers, when they are actually catchers.”

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4 comments

  1. Tom Sturch’s avatar

    Hi Deborah. I recently wrote a blog post exploring the god Janus and the derivative word janitor. Janus was divom deus, present at creation, looking backward and forward in time in memory and hope. Sociologists have mentioned that community forms at this nexus. In one sense, then, artists who employ the raw material of original creation (even in our less god-imaged machinations from inspiration to finished product) are indeed enjoined as a part of community, even in their lonely, essential role as creation’s custodians.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      Tom, this is a wonderful idea. I’ll track down your blog post, that is a provocative and thoughtful interpretation. Thanks so much.

  2. Ann E. Michael’s avatar

    I love how you are mining A God in the House. Such a good book for returning to & rereading, and endless inspiration and speculation.

    1. deborahbarlow’s avatar

      It is a great collection, and of course we would both find it inspiring. Thanks Ann.

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