Beauty Laid Bare

To be a poet…
you must believe in the uniqueness of every person,
and therefore in your own.

To find your voice you must forget about finding it,
and trust that if you pay sufficient attention to life
you will be found to have something to say

which no one else can say.

And that will be your voice,
unsought,
singing out from you of itself. 


~Denise Levertov

At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace.
It is handed to you, but only if you look for it.
You search, you break your fists, your back, your brain, and then –
and only then -it is handed to you.

Write as if you were dying.
At the same time, assume you write for an audience

consisting solely of terminal patients.
That is, after all, the case.
What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon?
What could you say to a dying person

that would not enrage by its triviality?

Why are we reading,
if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened
and its deepest mystery probed?
Why are we reading,

if not in hope that the writer
will magnify and dramatize our days,
will illuminate and inspire us

with wisdom, courage and the hope of meaningfulness,
and press upon our minds the deepest mysteries,
so we may feel again their majesty and power?


What do we ever know that is higher than that power
which, from time to time, seizes our lives,
and which reveals us startlingly to ourselves
as creatures set down here bewildered? 

~Annie Dillard from “Write Till You Drop”

Some days my voice feels so weakened
I am unable to sing out from myself,
knowing I have said too much
that means so little.

I swing and I miss, over and over
swishing the air –
hoping, listening, looking, living
for a connection made
through sharing images and words.

I am bewildered by life most of the time –
how figurative and literal smoke and haze
can permeate and discolor our days and nights.

What I must do is lay bare the beauty I see,
seeking a way to make a sad and suffering world
less mystifying.

A new book from Barnstorming is available to order here:

6 thoughts on “Beauty Laid Bare

  1. “What I must do is lay bare the beauty I see,
    seeking a way to make a sad and suffering world
    less mystifying”
    You’ve set yourself quite a challenge there, Emily! Laying bare the beauty is a precious gift, an invitation to cherish the reality of God’s lavish grace gifts to those with eyes to see and hearts able to appreciate them–but they are SO awesome, it almost makes the sadness and suffering more mystifying. I look at all the beauty and blessing bestowed on us so generously, with a sort of bittersweet praise, longing for the time when God will turn this topsy-turvy world right-side-up again.
    (Your photos of the dandelion puffs backlit by the red sun were my first introduction to Barnstorming, drawing me in for good!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The daily gift of all the beauty — and reality — that you see — sometimes hopeful, often discouraging,disheartening that you pass on to your readers are emotionally and spiritually
    life-giving, dear Emily. That is so obvious from your readers’ comments. As individuals, often
    with no one to share ‘feelings’ with, it is a special gift that reminds us that we are not alone
    as we feel despair and fear at the world/national news we see before our eyes every day.
    Thank you for your personal compassionate understanding and realistic insights.

    Liked by 1 person

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