May 3, 2012

Cecilia Woloch on Sharon Doubiago

HARD COUNTRY a book-length poem by Sharon Doubiago, was first published by West End Press in 1982. A copy came into my hands in 1987, when I first began to dare to take my writing seriously.  I'm not sure, now, how it was that the book came into my hands; maybe it was a gift from my mentor, the writer Holly Prado. I'm certain, anyway, that it was Holly who first brought the book to my attention. I fell into it and couldn't stop falling: this was writing as the heroine's quest, a courageous and almost-breathless plunge into psychic and spiritual and historical depths, through the layers of the known world into the not-yet-known, and maybe unknowable, sources of creative transformation and what we call the Soul. The work is long and complex, an interweaving of poetry and poetic prose, an epic journey into the poet's deepest heart and the tarnished heart of her country. I read it in gulps; it seemed to be reading my life as I read it. It taught me everything I needed to know about how to live in the world as a poet, what that would cost me and where it could lead me and how, if I wanted to do my truest work, there would be no turning back.  One section of the poem has been a kind of mantra for me ever since:

     "Until I knew, as Rilke insists
     is the first discovery to make
     if one is to be a poet:
     I will die if I don't write...
     Until I understood
     years in my wild places
     writing is a physical act, erotic and dangerous,
     the lowering of the self
     into a well almost too deep.
     I must bring up the words
     or perish from their rot
     left inside..."

(You can find more on Cecilia Woloch herself here.)

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