What the Repetitions of Poetry Might Help Us Remember about Home, Belonging and the Self

1 August 2018

This transformative scene, this moment of connection and permeation, is carried to the page on the structures of anaphora and parallelism: ‘it was loamy, it was good, it was what good meant, it was earth.’ Those echoing repeating structures that you will hear, in any quarter of the world, wherever height is required (by height I mean a kind of untangling from time and versions of history). They bring us back to the point – connection – and they let us go – to make of ourselves, ourselves. They come in shapes we humans recognise somewhere in our skin, our bones, our DNA: chant, evocation, spell, psalm, poem. They come in on sounds ancestrally familiar and they evoke a truth about community and personal transformation. Our places of worship: monastries, churches, synagogs, temples, mosques, rivers, trees, were sung into significance on these structures. Are still sung into significance on these structures.

It’s not that poetry stands in for religion in our contemporary world, or that poetry is a repository for a better, because ancient, belief system. Years ago I went to a counselor who had symbols from many religions across the world hanging on her walls and sitting on her shelves. She didn’t seem to land anywhere spiritually and yet seemed to desire the essence of all religions in that acquisitive Western way. I didn’t go back. We didn’t carry on. Poetic repetition acknowledges process; it is constantly making space for alteration. This is why I can trust it. It grounds me in the moment and releases me from the strictures of my stories. Repetition in poetry does not settle on a definitive version; it draws the past and the present into conversation and it gestures to the future. It includes versions of self and versions of place: ‘My hidebound boundary tree. My tree of knowledge. / My thick-tapped, soft fledged, airy listening post’ and it accommodates us all with our stammerings that are sometimes yes and sometimes no: ‘(‘Pallaksch, Pallaksch.’)’. The structures of poetic repetition connect us to our deep past and make space for movement, for alteration, for future versions.

We pick up these deep repeating sounds and we pass them on. There is no point without the passing on. Actually, there is no point, or endpoint, there is just process. There is the picking up, the infusion – the deep wash – of self in community, and there is the passing along for further deepening and gathering.

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