Write Into The World

Today’s guest blog post comes from Jed Myers, whose poem “I’ve Left You” appears in Issue 10 of The Quotable.

When 9/11 happened, twelve years ago now, I was one among the many who found ourselves somehow broken open. It was not unlike other sudden losses or heartbreaks, but not the same. The context was so vast and beyond the personal, personal though the impact was. I saw my ten-year-old son watch the televised terror of tiny people leaping from the towers’ flames into the open to fall to their deaths. I saw my son break into floods of tears at odd moments over the days thereafter. It all shook my heart loose in my chest.

I had always written poems–for friends, relatives, weddings, funerals, and so on. Now I resolved, without forethought, to write into the world whose desperate madness drove planes into the monuments of domination. Madness all around, the madness of blame. My one hope was that we might yet grasp how we’re all one people, one vulnerable being, on one minuscule island in space. So I began writing from this hope, and sending my poems out in whatever ways were possible. I found these poems well received, and have come to believe, more and more over these ensuing years, that through the arts we may discover the deep commonality of our humanness and our unity with the world. This discovery, as felt experience more than idea, will be essential to any possible greater peace.

No one of us is ever going to save the world. But every one of us is changing the world in some small way with every action or expression. When I read a poem that moves me to feel less alone in some private recess of myself, or see a painting by an artist who may not even still be alive, but whose brushstrokes bring me into a moment of now-common experience, or hear a song by which the singer and I are in feeling resonance, the world is rendered incrementally more coherent, more human, more welcoming.

Every such creative risk—this expressive/responsive leaning into resonance across space and time and cultural rift—on the part of the artist and the art’s receiver, invites participation in the process by which the world, as it goes on unfolding from here, is altered in favor of a more openhearted existence, whether or not we’re here to witness it. So we must not think ourselves utterly helpless in the face of even the most horrific escalations of retaliatory terror. Every poem changes the world, in a moment here, a moment there, forever.