The recent publication of my book of poetry, Dark and Light, has me recalling the words of the great illustrator, Howard Pyle. He said, “You must throw your heart into a painting and then climb in after it.” Does it matter that he spoke of painting? Does this not apply equally to sculpture, writing, or gardening? Cannot a spark ignite all manner of materials, and is anything illuminated without that spark?
Over the past forty years I have had the unusual gift of time. As I have labored in the clay fields (my studio), my mind has been largely free to roam the universe. Paper always at hand, I often find myself turning to language, to lyric, to verse, as further modes of creative exploration. This new book represents the discoveries found along one trail of those explorations.
Not too surprisingly, writing seems to be a common second talent. One is rarely a painter first and opera singer or ballet dancer second. The training is too rigorous perhaps, to stumble upon opera, and it certainly isn’t wise to stumble upon dance. But we do stumble upon language from birth, and some of us stumble with intention, with our hearts, “and then climb in after it.” No one poem can set the tone for the book, which is filled with humor but also contains darker notes. I will leave you with this one:
FROM AN OBSERVATION BALLOON, 1864
We view the troops entrenching in the clearing,
Furrows deeply cut by farmers’ sons.
The bugle call to work the field is nearing —
Torn bodies to be sown amongst the guns.
We watch, like distant angels, the enlisted
Charging, flanking, running in retreat,
And are compelled to stare as they fall twisted,
Then scribe another line upon our sheet.
We perceive no rank bestowed by nation,
No sweetheart’s token pressed to lifeless lips,
No eloquently spoken declaration —
Just tally marks set down on paper slips.
How tempting, once we’ve measured out life’s worth,
To cut our tether and depart this earth.
— JHC from Dark and Light
Dark and Light, Poetry by Jay Hall Carpenter is available here: