When something wonderful accosts us visually, we can be at a loss for words, and when words accost the senses — hearing their music, their sound, their touch, smooth or stinging or honey-sweet — we can be in silent openness, not doing anything at all, certainly not immediately forming counter-sentences or responses. It’s a kind of alert passivity. That mood can carry over, or be transformed. We hold still not in alertness to what is arriving through the words of others, or to the music of others, or to something that accosts. Our alertness is readiness for what percolates within — for what from whispers and shadows is forming to tell or sing — for what is arising within the well of our imaginings, sympathies, and memories: passivity is prolegomenon to any future word (or world) — any that I could call my own, and then, perchance, invite you to hear or touch or join. If you hear, it’s because YOUR alert passivity is in gear.
“There is a place of transport I go to when I am listening in the dark. It is where the muse percolates. It is where I block out everything else and enter the world of the muses. In these moments, I am not an English professor. I’m not exactly a person, not even a transparent eyeball. I am all ears.
Falling in love with poems, with novels, with movies, with paintings, with music—this has nothing to do with what you “should” be doing. It happens when you have no other choice—when the combination of words, sounds, images become sublime. It’s pure inspiration. When I remember that I am something called an English professor, I try to nudge people in that direction. Not everyone will get it, but then again, I dwell in possibility.”
That’s David Yaffe, interviewed in The Vitalist (see blogroll). He has a book out on Jazz, another on Bob Dylan, and one in the delivery room on Joni Mitchell. When not writing he teaches in Upstate New York along the Erie Canal.