Late last year I attended a sharing session by Li-Young Lee. I’d already been enraptured by his poetry of course, his meditations on love in particular. But until I read his memoir, I didn’t really know about his family’s harrowing journey as refugees before they sought asylum in the United States and settled into a new home. He had said that we’re all a version of Odysseus trying to get home.
Why is that? Home—is that a place of origin that determines who we are? Home is tied up with the stories that get told. It’s history and geography and a lot of storying of self. What if you’re an emigrant? Well then yours would be an emigrant’s story. America is a melting pot of people of different origins isn’t it? But even if place plays a key role, the journey is a journey with self. It is ultimately a spiritual journey, a journey of becoming.
Remember the epic story of Don Quixote, who imagines himself as a knight in a chivalric setting? It’s really a journey of the imagination. Sure Don Quixote is delusional, living in a kind of personal utopia—a fantasy no doubt. But if the exploits of the anti-hero in Cervantes’s picaresque novel is infused with so much humor, warmth, humanity and imagination, can it be meant as a total indictment of the world of fantasy? Sure we have to come down to earth but if there are only Sanchos, wouldn’t life be dull as ditchwater? Imagination is self. Perchance there’s more than one self. If the self is imagined, then the song is the thing. I think the best poets know this. Well, isn’t the song of the poet just the way poetry operates to lie against time, to hold a staying hand against time and nature?
One of my favorite stories is the film, Cinema Paradiso. It tells a touching story of the relationship between a famous Italian film director and his town’s projectionist, Alfredo, who had taught the young Salvatore how to operate the cinema projector. But Salvatore was advised by Alfredo to leave his village to pursue his dream to become a film-maker. Thirty years later, Salvatore returns to his village to attend Alfredo’s funeral and as he plays the film reel that Alfredo had left for him comprising all the censored kissing scenes of films he once projected, Salvatore experiences a sense of fruition as well as deep loss. His coming home is a coming home to self–the beginning of self meeting the journeying self if you will.
So there it is—the theme of our Spring/Summer 2018 issue is “Coming Home”. If journeying is exploration, adventure, and becoming, then no journey is complete without coming home. Inasmuch as it will be a physical journey, it is really a poetic one. Its reality is spiritual, so I’m calling that poetic because it’s how we get to a sense of the sublime. It is remembrance. It measures the spiritual distance between our original condition, having not journeyed, with the post-journey self. So journey is transformation. How can we not call this reality poetic, because as Lee pointed out,
“Poetic reality is the reality. All other realities are packaged bites. I think poetry is reality. The world is a poem.”
What he meant was that as much information as possible has been packed in as tight a space as possible—that reality is actually saturated. Much like what we experienced at the ending moment of Cinema Paradiso. We’re all a version of Odysseus getting home.
In this issue, we call for poems about the spirituality of self, the self in moments of sublimation, the fictions of self, journeying, the return. We explore what home means. Where do you feel at home? How do you feel at home? Or do you not feel at home? What is home? Does it mean coming to a kind of peace with the life you’ve been given? Does it mean changing your life and if so what are your choices? What does it mean to come home, to be home? Is home a place, a person, a feeling, a journeying back?
Oh that quote from T S Eliot’s “Four Quartets” goes:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
Life’s a cycle, so things from the past come back to haunt. We journey back, this time much wiser, and things assume a clarity that wasn’t there before. And ultimately we return to dust. But before that we’re on a quest aren’t we? What is your quest? Are there common grounds with others or is yours unique as hell?
Whatever it is, we hope it will be a worthy one and that you’ll share those poetic moments filed under “notes toward becoming who one is supposed to be”. In other words, think about your narrator’s destiny. What is the path or journey of your narrator? What shape or meaning does his or her life take on? Does coming home mean coming home to the self after the soul’s journey, a kind of soul recognition? I mean, really think about who he or she is, and also who we are. Life’s journey perhaps is best seen as one of being cured of one’s delusions. But what a ride. Tell us stories. Tilt at windmills if you must, because you can’t help it.
These stories, I think, tell of the soul’s longing, its quest, do they not? Whose soul? We’re not really sure. If it is ours why do others find resonance in them? I once saw a performance where a woman started off with a feather and started to place all kinds of twigs and branches over her body in counterbalance, one thing balancing the other, till she’s totally laden with twigs and stuff. She held an amazing, seemingly makeshift contraption. In the final act, she removes that feather and everything falls. Is the soul a feather, holding everything together?
Submissions are open for the Spring/Summer 2018 issue. Closing date: 28 August 2018. Please read our submission guidelines before submitting.
Selected poems will be posted on this site from March 2018 to August 2018.
Our journal has a prompt site, Red Wolf Prompts. You are encouraged to write to the prompts over at the site, if you so wish.
Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith, Editors
Red Wolf Journal