Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why I Write (a tedious self-reflection in poetry and prose)

This is also a Sacred Songspace challenge.


I write to understand the world and myself. I write to speak for people who need someone to speak for them. I write to speak for myself. I write to learn what I think. I write to gain clarity. I write to tell the truth.


The truth is never
objective. Facts are not
the truth. The truth is salvific.
The truth will make us free.
The truth is that
there is a greater truth
of which we catch only glimpses.
The truth is that we are blind,
deaf, insensate, but we have
moments of sight and insight.


Art is the expression of insight. Art is the way we share the glimpses we have. Art partakes of the truth, and therefore, it partakes of salvation. If we could turn glimpse into sight and, through art, turn sight into vision, art could save humanity. But we have no sight, only glimpses, and even the best of artists communicate those glimpses only imperfectly.

Even so, art is how we discover what it means to be human. By creating art, responding to art, sharing those glimpses that come to ourselves and others, we redefine who we are, we learn to understand the glimpses we have of the truth.


There is truth in myth.
There are deeper truths
than what he said,
she said,
they said,
we are told,
we see,
we say.

There are truths we share
without being aware.
We write those truths in some way
every time we caress a keyboard,
enfold with a hand a pen,
make forms on the blank of page or screen.

I write to understand
and share the glimpses I have had
of the deeper truths.
I write because I believe
in humanity
in truth
in myth
in fact
in small salvations
here and now.


This is the paradox of art, that it partakes of the potential for salvation but can never really save the world, the artist, the viewer, the reader... It never transforms the world. It seldom transforms a person. Yet because it partakes of that potential, it can transform a thought, a moment, an insight. It can prevent or at least slow the long slide into a world without glimpses, it can make the truth more visible, it can remind us that humanity has a choice, that there are deeper truths, that those truths are worth seeking, worth expressing. Art alone will never redeem us, but it is redemptive, if only because it reminds us of the possibility of redemption, salvation, transformation, reminds us of the deeper truths.


The deeper truths
are not solely beauty,
though beauty may be truth,
as the poet said.
And truth may be beauty,
but what a strange beauty,
the beauty of the masses
and the few
and the one,
the beauty of the love
and the hate
and the pain
and the hope.
The beauty of art is religious,
even for atheists,
for it is the beauty of Buddha and Christ, the
beauty of the love that accepts all
that is human
and goes on loving.

I cannot love
like that in life.
I am not Christ,
no Buddha I.
Slights, hurts, and betrayals,
rejections, trespasses,
violations and violence,
the wrong of the bully,
the desecration of the truth--
they blind me, stop me;
I let them kill my love.

When I write, I purge them
or remind myself
how little they matter,
remind myself to love,
just a little,
as I should.


Joan Didion points out that the phrase "Why I Write" says "I . . . . I . . . . I," which is true, but I think that we create art of any kind, and we write whether we think we are artists or not, because in doing so, we say both "I . . . .I . . . . I" and "YOU!" And we say "yes," as well. I believe that we write because, in the end, writing transforms us, as all art transforms us, whether it is our own or that of others. I believe that I write because I seek transformation. I write to become more fully human.

© K. Kammann 2008


  1. Reminds me more than a bit of Ezra Pound (who spent time in jail for his views).

    To me, writing is therapy.

    Enough said....

    (Well written, my friend!)

  2. Thank you--and tell me the URL for your blogger site again, please?