The only option I had was to stand there in front of that piece. Nothing else mattered. I was elated and, even all these years later, I can barely begin to explain why.
I image the patience and devotion the artist had when he set out to make his work of art. Choosing the right kind of heavy white paper, committing himself to the simple act of pressing uninked type-writer keys into the surface seemed, to me at least, like an act of faith. Did he imagine me bearing witness to his work, a work of such tender simplicity that it haunts me even now?
Such an experience is best met with prayerful silence, but since this is an effort to give shape to what is essentially shapeless, I offer these few thoughts. My goal as a poet is to create work in which people can find what they need. Ultimately, my work must be a place where people can stop, stay and wait.
Though it sounds strange, I create out of a desire for emptiness. The last thing I want is to crowd an already crowded world with more noise. Work that demands an awareness of only itself and not the holy mystery that calls it into existence is only a clanging cymbal.
Even the act of creation can become sacramental. In the fall of 2011, I spent two weeks writing in the Evamy Studio in the Leighton Artists' Colony at the Banff Centre for the Arts. My studio represents an ideal place for me to write because it allows for a kind of emptiness. All I had to do was write. I was alone for much of my residency; socializing was a choice, resting from writing was a choice. I could attend to the passionate mystery of creation itself. By empting myself of worldly concerns, I could come close to encounter a little of the pleasure of our creative God.
I have come to understand from these experiences that the created thing may not be as important as the reasons for its creation. Certainty of what a work of art will do lessens its potential power and value. It diminishes the artist too, especially if the artist loves God. Emptiness need not be thought of as a kind of poverty. Instead, standing in front of it, it might signal a way forward.