April has been the “cruelest month” as TS Eliot wrote in The Waste Land. As we are swept and tossed in the tsunami of the pandemic; as numbers take on names and faces; as we find ourselves struggling to take each step in the dark tunnel which seems no have no light at its end, we are engulfed by despair.
Now more than ever before we feel the need to reach out, to connect, to be reassured that we are not alone. A time when we seek words that offer solace and hope.
While we feel alone and helpless in these grim times, may we get some comfort from these wise words.
They were written by Muriel Rukeyser, an American poet, playwright, biographer, children’s book author, and political activist. For Rukeyser, poetry was the strand that encompassed both science and history, that of the past and of the present. In the introduction to her 1949 book of essays The Life of Poetry she writes:
In times of crisis, we summon up our strength.
Then, if we are lucky, we are able to call every resource, every forgotten image that can leap to our quickening, every memory that can make us know our power. And this luck is more than it seems to be: it depends on the long preparation of the self to be used.
In time of the crises of the spirit, we are aware of all our need, our need for each other and our need for our selves. We call up, with all the strength of summoning we have, our fullness. And then we turn; for it is a turning that we have prepared; and act. The time of the turning may be very long. It may hardly exist.
In this moment when we face horizons and conflicts wider than ever before, we want our resources, the ways of strength. We look again to the human wish, its faiths, the means by which the imagination leads us to surpass ourselves.
If there is a feeling that something has been lost, it may be because much has not yet been used, much is still to be found and begun.
Now, when it is hard to hold for a moment the giant clusters of event and meaning that every day appear, it is time to remember [poetry], which has forever been a way of reaching complexes of emotion and relationship, the attitude that is like the attitude of science and the other arts today, but with significant and beautiful distinctness from these — the attitude that perhaps might equip our imaginations to deal with our lives — the attitude of poetry.
However confused the scene of our life appears, however torn we may be who now do face that scene, it can be faced, and we can go on to be whole.
With these words, remembering two dear friends with whom one had exchanged, over many years, so many words of joy and sorrow; comfort and excitement; wonder and wisdom, and much more. You will be sorely missed.