See the light and get lost in it.

A couple of months ago, I started reading The Poetics of Space by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard. It is by far one of the most enriching, rewarding, and delightful books I have ever read. It’s not a book that lends itself easily to description. While it’s nominally about unpacking the many meanings of home, it’s much more than that.

It’s one of those rare books in which very little is explicit. It’s written so that every reader is forced to dream and let their imagination run wild, so that they can reclaim old meanings and conjure new ones about the humble abode we all take for granted. It’s a delightfully messy and abstract book that’s filled with all sorts of detours, from poetry, philosophy, and psychology to botany.

Once you read the book, you will see your home, which lives within you and cocoons you from the outside, in a new light. As you read the book, you will be forced to step outside your own body and construct vivid daydreams about everything from the cupboards and chests to the roofs and stairs.

Your childhood dreams and memories will come rushing into your consciousness, like a dammed-off river that’s set free. You will remember the warmth and safety that your first house provided you with, so that you could swim in the deepest oceans, climb the tallest mountains, and bask in the warm afterglow of distant stars.

Once you read the book, you will never see your house the same way again. You will feel a certain kinship with the place, which is your own little safe corner in this vast universe—your own universe. Gaston Bachelard makes even the simple profound. I’m inordinately grateful that I found this little book and got to read it.

Throughout the book, Bachelard includes wonderful poems from some luminous poets across the ages. The last time I read a poem was in my undergrad English class more than a decade ago. After that, I don’t think I’ve read a single poem. I now regret that.

I have no recollection of the magic of poetry. It had forgotten the ability of poems to make the ineffable, effable.

Poetry is the language that sits really close to feelings that defy language. Poetry nudges some of our feelings of joy or confusion or desire toward feelings that we can recognize and describe. I take solace in the fact that it’s poems that we turn to in big moments of change — like the loss of someone or a marriage or the birth of a child — because poems are resourceful for finding terms that remind us of what we live with but don’t always bring into speech. — Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate

I was a latecomer to poetry — an art form I did not understand and, as we tend to do with what we do not understand, discounted. But under its slow seduction, I came to see how it shines a sidewise gleam on the invisible and unnameable regions of being where the truest truths dwell, the most difficult and the most beautiful; how it sneaks in through the backdoor of consciousness to reveal us more fully to ourselves; how it gives us an instrument for paying attention, which is how we learn to love the world more. — Maria Popova

The Poetics of Space is sprinkled with verses from the greatest conductors of imagination, such as Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, Charles Péguy, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Jules Supervielle, Tristan Tzara, Henri Michaux, and Rainer Maria Rilke—poets that I hadn’t heard of.

So, I started reading a little bit of poetry and also bought a few books. Then I realized that you don’t even have to buy a book. Many of the greatest poems ever written are in the public domain. So I decided to read one poem a week and share it here in the hopes that it might move you.

I’m also creating a separate section called “Poetic Reveries.” The name is inspired by Poetics of Space. It’s also the title of another of Bacherald’s books called The Poetics of Reverie, which I’ve yet to read.

In itself, revery constitutes a psychic condition that is too frequently confused with dream. But when it is a question of poetic revery, of revery that derives pleasure not only from itself, but also prepares poetic pleasure for other souls, one realizes that one is no longer drifting into somnolence. The mind is able to relax, but in poetic revery the soul keeps watch, with no tension, calmed and active. To compose a finished, well-constructed poem, the mind is obliged to make projects that prefigure it. But for a simple poetic image, there is no project; a flicker of the soul is all that is needed.

Poetic revery, unlike somnolent revery, never falls asleep. Starting with the simplest of images, it must always set the waves of the imagination radiating.

— From The Poetics of Space

The first poem I wanted to share is “In the Light” by Kamini Roy, the legendary Bengali poet, activist, and teacher. I came across the poem in the wonderful Poem-a-Day newsletter by the Academy of American Poets.

It’s an evocative and stirring poem that celebrates the miracle life. One of the curses of modernity is that we often get stuck in mechanistic routines and become zombie-like. We allow our sense of joy, awe, and wonderment to be stifled; we lose reverence for life, and this is a tragedy. I hope this poem stirs you so that you start seeing the light.

In the Light

Kamini Roy

We are indeed children of Light. What an endless mart goes on in the Light. In the Light is our sleeping and waking, the play of our life and death. 

Beneath one great canopy, in the ray of one great sun, slowly, very slowly, burn the unnumbered lamps of life. 

In the midst of this unending Light I lose myself; amidst this intolerable radiance I wander like one blind. 

We are indeed children of Light. Why then do we fear when we see the Light? Come, let us look all around and see, here no man hath cause for any fear. 

In this boundless ocean of Light, if a tiny lamp goes out, let it go; who can say that it will not burn again? 

Did the poem move you?

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