Article Posted: 625 words
Let’s get to the heart of the matter.
Words are more than a dictionary. Before you achieve fluency in a language, you must learn the whispered words on the breath of the wind that you cannot find anywhere else. Evocative words that bring memories, experiences, and senses to mind. These are the deepest, most beautiful oceans of a language.
Essence is what my poems and all of my writing survives on. The good parts, the parts where you sit back and realize you know a little bit more about what it means to be human. I don’t catch those bits very often in my writing, but when I do, I grin. They are the floating bits of sunlight in a creek winding among the trees of Georgia.
I learned the trade from those around me who thought the same way. N.D. Wilson and Death by Living captured all of my struggles with the tapestry and with truly living. I resonated. Essence resonates. Annie Dillard and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek taught me how to look, and by looking see. I grew up reading the books of incredible writers who opened my minds to the world of language.
Good writing pulls you closer to the author, and communicates meaning to you. When you read essence, you gain a fuller, more complete picture of the author’s meaning. This is because the words carry meaning beyond themselves. Good, essenceful writing captures something without saying it. In his poems, with plain language, Robert Frost gives you a much bigger picture than the words that make up the poem. The sum is greater than the parts.
But conveying emotion is tricky. If you write “I feel sad,” that only tells the reader that you are, in fact, sad. But that doesn’t tell them anything about why you’re sad, how sad you are, how long you’ve been sad, if there is any way for you to be happy again. It just tells it like it is. News articles, novels, and stories do this. They tell. You read a newspaper and you’re informed.
Poetry, however, is something completely different. Poetry is an attempt to communicate something larger. By purposely not saying “I feel sad,” the poet tries to show you and make you feel his sadness. In Ars Poetica, Archibald Macleish says that grief is “An empty doorway, and a maple leaf.” Grief is an emotion, and can’t be defined or put to words; we can’t touch grief. Instead, Macleish uses images to communicate grief. If he had said, “I am grieving,” that would not be poetry, and we would have missed a piece of the rich world.
I am always hunting for essence in everything. It is the core of each and every word. A skilled master can turn the words to his will — can even stretch the essence to new and uncharted places that it has never been before. With the essence of words, you are an explorer. Your ship is sailing across the ocean of language and you will not fall off the edge because there is no edge. This language is deep, and it is rich.
I am an author. I am called to call others to richness. Through essence, I can point, even if I am a crooked and unpainted signpost. I will take you along the path. Jump in, and come into the flow. Follow this bubbling creek and you will find the waterfall, spinning downwards in sparkling diamonds. If you haven’t yet found it, you haven’t yet seen. I will show you. There is a canyon splitting the face of the earth. You can’t miss it.
Come explore, and dive into language. Discover meaning. Go swimming.
This is essence.
(Photo Credit Elizabeth Kirkwood)