The Power of Detachment….

That sounds like a funny title.  Sometimes essays start with funny titles that don’t seem to have much resonance to the text, but perhaps they grow around it.

This issue of detachment has been on my mind lately: perhaps it’s the issue of trying to write, to finish a manuscript, to write without the attachment of friends, etc…. who are annoying.  They would not like to be labeled with such a sentiment, but they can’t help it.  Some are in the first flush of excitement over something, and they want to ‘share’ that personal excitement and drag you into their ‘ campaign du jour’.

I’ve been there…many times….I’ve instigated them over the years, so I understand the pulse of these kind of things.  But something changes over life, or perhaps you just get more impatient or tired or perhaps you become more ‘committed’ to a path you are determined to stay on.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I am trying to write full time.  That is what I try, but ‘other life’ gets in the way.  Marriage needs to be attended to, and I have the most wonderful husband in this respect:  he cuts me a lot of slack and doesn’t expect much of the wifely stuff.  He supports the writing efforts and is a dedicated reader  and when he does, is an excellent proof reader.

Over the past four years I have wasted a lot of time and energy on stupid stuff and some very stupid people, but I recovered.  I think the excitement and joy of writing saved me from a lot of crap.  It wasn’t so much the responses from other readers, or writers, but the sheer joy of words cobbled together that developed scenes, then progressed to  full blown stories.  The characters were ‘people’ who either thrilled, intrigued or disgusted me, but they were always interesting.  Terribly flawed, but aren’t we all?

I live in Atlanta, and there are always these political jackasses who demand time and attention.  Hell, our neighborhoods are so full of issues you can spend all your waking hours trying to find solutions…none that please most.  I guess I have learned something important over the past 40 years here:  you can’t change lives, nor really environment, regardless your good intentions and energy.  People will continue to do what they do.

The point of all of this is not to let it consume you.  I have a couple of friends and neighbors who let it consume them.  But then again, they aren’t writers.

And as to writing, you have to constantly read.  That’s probably 70% of writing.  It goes way beyond research for a particular story or novel.  It is something that never ends, this desire to develop your cobbling of words.  For in the end, this cobbling is what gives life and substance to it all.  Hopefully you go from a lower level to a higher level in your writing.  But that takes time.  It annoys me when people have blogs and they don’t try to develop their writing. They just think what they put down is ‘good enough’.  Well, it’s usually not, but they will either sink or float by the amount of work they put into their writing.  It’s not rocket science.  And I can spend hours cringing reading my own stuff.  That is what I think propels us forward, those of us who consider ourselves as ‘serious’ writers: we work endlessly at it.  And the improvements are incremental.  Maybe it gets easier down the road, but I’m not there yet.

I wanted to write about Lawrence Durrell’s “A Key to Modern British Poetry”, 1952 edition.  This is something I recently picked up, and thought there had to be something of resonance in there for me…since I was attempting to form my own poetry.  There was, and I was surprised at how much spoke to the issue:

(From Beyond the Ego, an essay in Durrell’s book)

To speak of reality at all is to limit and debase it; in understanding poetry it is always the words which get  in the way.  It is a great pity that we cannot inhale poems like scents–for crude as their medium is, their message, their content is something which owes little to reason.  The is why one should, if possible, allow poems to impact themselves without too much dissection of detail.  Let them be totals to experience first of all; then afterward see if your brains and reading cannot add to the first impression and support it.  The great enemy is the conceptual syntax and the dictionary meanings.  Yet used properly to supplement experience, they can become great allies.

….You should let the whole poem flow through you as a cinema film flows across your vision…..You do not think too consciously about it, you let the successive scenes flash upon you, surprising you.  Only when the film or poem ends should you begin to think about it and call up your power of judgment.  But while you are experiencing it you should be receptive–nothing more.  Do not blunt its impact by too much head-work.

There is a lot more here….especially good is Durrell’s essay “The Limits of Criticism” where he writes about accepting the poet’s word order as the clearest statement of what he means.

That doesn’t mean, which can be seen so much in modern poetry,….that the poet doesn’t work and work very hard to refine what he means to the best of his poetic ability.   He owes this work to his craft.

But perhaps in Durrell’s words above, this issue of detachment comes around more fully, or in a real sense for a poet and a reader.

Detachment is good.  It may allow for freedom and progress.

Lady Nyo


A stuttering wind blows across

Clouds tinted by the falling sun.

Brittle air is softened by colors of peach-gold

and a faded azure blue.

A late flock of Sandhill cranes flies over,

Pale bodies blending in the

White above with legs

Flowing like dark streamers,

Their celestial cries falling to

Earth like harsh, chiding rain.

The trees below in the valley

Are massed into graying darkness

As fading light steals

The color of nature,

Creeps from field to hillock

And all prepare for the

Rising of the Corn Moon.

Even the frogs in the pond

Listen between croaks

For the intention of the night.

“From “White Cranes of Heaven”, soon to be published.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009

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9 Responses to “The Power of Detachment….”

  1. 1writersdevotion Says:

    Especially enjoyed Autumn Dusk, the imagery. You placed me there, echantingly so. Thank you, g.


  2. ladynyo Says:

    How nice!! I just posted this….And thank you!

    Poetry is such a subjective thing, and we moan over it too much…in the reading. If someone likes a piece, it’s a glorious day!

    Lady Nyo


  3. Malcolm Miller Says:

    I agree with the words of Durrell. Poetry is not a description of reality. It’s more like an elusive scent, or a distant, part-heard music, that we should allow to infiltrate our beings and thus enrich them. To do analysis or deconstruction before absorbing the underlying influence and letting it influence us would be like trying to understand a friend by examining their CAT scan!


  4. Margie Says:

    Although I had never read Durrell’s essay, I think this is how I instinctively read poetry, and experience it. When I see others crit regarding word usage and tense, it always makes me feel kind of stupid for not noticing those things – but maybe I’ve been right all along!

    And again, this is one of my favorite poems – I see legs of the crane like streamers above my head. It does set a mood!

    Love you, cuz


  5. bren Says:

    Hi Jane!

    Sounds like Atlanta is still the ‘same old same old’. I remember it well and feel for you. I heard of the latest on the news and the house they showed looked familiar.

    Hope your quest for detachment goes well and your writing goes ‘higher and higher’. I like Autumn Dusk. We are still in summer here thank goodness. I love autumn but summer here is too short to want to rush through it.

    I sent you an email that bounced back with a lot on detachment but too involved for this forum. Of course, not getting emails can but help as they can be time black holes.

    take care,


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Bren! So sorry for the email screwup…I have no idea what is happening here…but try again to send. Most times they come fine.

    Atlanta: Well, part of the problem here in this neighborhood is this: many of the newer people have been here for 5-10 years and they expected that things would change overnight. With the history of issues here…and the AHA continuing to try to find housing for the project people….there are just so many issues abounding.

    And they expect you to come along and reinvent the wheel with them. I’ve been there and done that….by myself for years…and don’t want to do this kind of activity anymore.

    There is a very peaceful, quiet life when you realize you can’t change people or their processes. You should put that energy to your own service and remake.

    Since I have removed myself from the usual political crap here…I have become very productive: it was as if something inside was just waiting all these years for me to notice and attend.

    Try again and send me what you wrote on detachment…I am very interested.



  7. ladynyo Says:

    Well, I think you are ahead of the curve, Margie! LOL!

    And you instinctively do exactly what is called for. That is wonderful. Yes, our heads and our concepts or understanding of words get in the way of our really being enchanted by poetry.

    Yesterday I had a friend and neighbor here for breakfast. We talk a lot about the political/social issues in Atlanta and our part of it: he is a social worker and he is always wound up in the issues. He listened to me read my poetry, and he just closed his eyes and it seemed he was really transferred to a ‘different place’. He was so relaxed…and that was a real tribute to my poems. And his insights were great!

    He was doing, as you do instinctively….what Durrell writes about: he wasn’t letting the words get in the way. He was ‘slipstreaming’ in the rhythm and the cobbling.

    Hugs and Love, cuz!


  8. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Good analogy.


  9. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you!

    Lady Nyo


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