Contentment, Creativity and Cracks
The concept of cracks may seem a strange subject for contemplation, but these overlooked creatures of absence are often the constructive features that frame our existence. Even though many of us are a constellation of cracks inside, and it is possible that we are not quite human without our flaws, I think confessional poetry sometimes gets a little bad press. A crack is more often than not covered-up, fixed and filled, but the trace of damage is not necessarily defeat. In fact, what we perceive to be bitter failure and flaws may actually be where brilliance or beauty is born, and we shouldn’t necessarily shy away from bringing this into the spotlight.
I recently read Trial By Scar (Eyewear) by Deborah Turnbull and was enthralled by this poet’s resolve to turn poison into medicine. The work recalls Thomas Hardy (‘If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst’), though with more urgency. The focus of the poems vary from intense alcohol intoxication to abusive relationships, from intolerable pain to deteriorating physical health (‘eyes black pricks, / cheeks grey, their juice sucked to crêpe.’) It’s inspiring to see Turnbull demonstrate the potential to become stronger in spite of our cracks if only mindset is attuned. ‘You may have mocked frailty, thought it weak, but only the brave are on their knees’, she writes in ‘Hardcore’, a poem that encourages us to embrace weakness. ‘Let outdoors in and suffer / from exposure – let air make / gooseflesh of you, so tender it just falls off the bone’. There’s a refreshing honesty as recovery is revealed its all its fragility, (‘Rising, nothing like a phoenix, more of a double helix, building myself up from the bare, basic code’), making it all the more beautiful.
I’m fond of exploring the crossovers between different creative disciplines, and found myself thinking about the parallels with the Japanese art of kintsugi. In repairing broken pottery with powdered gold, the piece is perceived as more beautiful, precisely for having been broken. The process is based on the perception that breakage is part of the valued history of an object rather than something to simply disguise. Its aesthetic is centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection, valuing asymmetry and asperity, roughness and lack of regularity.
If we adopt the poetic kintsugi perspective, even if briefly, whether it’s whilst reading, crafting or writing critical responses to confessional poetry that lays bare one’s cracks, then just imagine the calm, confidence, and contentment that would descend upon our souls.