April 3, 2023_Lenska
March 19, 2023 – On A Sunday Morning
Charles Simic’s book “The Life of Images” has been laying around my apartment since last week. I finally picked it up today and started reading his autobiographical piece Reading Philosophy at Night, which turned out to be about … poetry.
Simic and I are both from European margins (he was born in then Yugoslavia and I am Polish). I was curious whether we perhaps shared a mindset. Could this be a new intellectual affinity for me? Always looking for new friends. I guess I was also looking for some affirmation that I am not completely out of my rocker for trying to live a life poetic in 2023.
Reading Philosophy at Night is mostly about books, human connection, and finding a meaning in life. I am smiling as I write this, because Simic did not mean to be overtly humorous, but it cannot be helped – he descended into poetry and suddenly it all became very funny. The essay is also a series of loosely connected (but connected) images of what it is like to read in philosophy for someone with a taste for paradox. (European margins, I tell you – the roots are there). I come ready for philosophy, and here comes Simic:
“Poor poetry. Like imperturbable Buster Keaton … drifting over an endless ocean, he comes across a billboard, actually a target for battleship practice. Keaton climbs it, takes out his fishing rod and bait, and fishes peacefully. That’s what great poetry is. A superb serenity in the face of chaos. Wise enough to play the fool.”
I’m onboard with that. Yes, poetry and comic practice go hand in hand. I feel I am a village fool almost every time I sit down and “stop doing things” to write verses. How many ideas and inspirations I let slip-slide through my fingers, because I felt absurd taking time away from ‘making things happen in life.’ Turns out, most of my practice for writing is recalibrating the definition of wasting time and unlearning mainstream productivity. The less productive I am, the more creative I become. And make easier company with the absurd, the impractical, and the comic – things ubiquitous in life. And I even discover that life indeed goes on for a village fool, and somehow makes more sense than before.
Needless to say, that is one of the best essays ignited by reading philosophy I have ever read.
Photography: Buster Keaton Defying Gravity (film shot from Buster movie, title mine).