Strange Beauty: Wounds, Loss, Exile, Survival

Photo of a strangely beautiful abandoned country farmhouse, Norwood, Virginia. Taken Nov. 2017.

I attended a couple of powerful lectures this week at Duke University. Wednesday night I saw Natasha Trethewey, our former US Poet Laureate. Last night I saw Richard Rodriguez, memoirist and essayist. They touched on similar themes and both have me thinking more about history, trauma, loss, geography, longing, wounds, exile, and survival. These are some of my personal writing themes, as well. I don’t see these things as completely negative, although we have assigned a negative connotation to a few of them in our common language. There is something beautiful about these words to me. Maybe not in and of themselves, but the beauty that comes from them, or can, if allowed. Maybe it is better to say the beauty that comes through them, not from them. Perhaps, strange beauty? I don’t know. I’m still thinking about all of this myself. And I know I’m not the only one, I have notebooks full of quotes from others who have contemplated these themes. I’ve included a few that are dancing in my brain today. What are some of your writing themes? What tends to come up often in your writing?

“To me, poetry is about survival first of all.
Survival of the individual self, survival of the emotional life.”
~Gregory Orr

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.”
~Edgar Allan Poe

“The duende delights in struggling freely with the creator on the edge of the pit… the duende wounds, and in trying to heal that wound that never heals, lies the strangeness, the inventiveness of a man’s work.”
~Federico García Lorca

“Maybe it was always simple:
Loss surrounds us.
Who would deny it?
We ourselves are loss, are lost.”
~Gregory Orr


9 thoughts on “Strange Beauty: Wounds, Loss, Exile, Survival

  1. Survival comes up for me in my writing themes, but with a moving on to something better, dealing with personal issues that have shaped someone in a way that they recognise they need or want to change. Love abandoned places too! Layers of paint and wallpaper, rotting stairs…


  2. ‘Maybe it is better to say the beauty that comes through them, not from them.’ I think you are so right with this thought – it is an option we are given that does not ameliorate the pain, but does give us the chance to deepen our lives, to become something more than we might have been as a result of the painful experience. Without pain we don’t really reach our potential, I think we can see this throughout history and in our own personal biographies if we care to look.

    Even though I don’t ‘write’ as such Cheryl, I paint and I think – not necessarily both at the same time though 🙂 And these themes are among the things I often muse on. I think as we go through life we are given many opportunities to deepen our ability to love in all its myriad forms and to appreciate life, in all its complexities. Modern western life is quite hung up on ‘having’ rather than ‘being’ and sees life’s crisis as failures and dangers – heck we even see death as a failure. Yet life and death are two sides of the same coin. We can’t have one without the other and more and more science is falling into line with the Eastern Mystics who know that death is a reunion with the cosmos and consciousness never dies – just the personality. We are so egocentric and tied to our personality the thought of losing it, losing what we think of as ourselves that we cannot abide death and go to great lengths to stay alive at any cost. I think my job is to learn to be gentle with myself and the world. To walk in harmony, to listen, to stop judging, to be always kind. I fail every day. Yet I will continue to practise because to me it is the only way that makes any sense. We are a duality, it is easy to fall into the dark – but it is also just as easy to rise into the light. We just have to make the choice – again and again and again. It is our work.

    And that is what comes up when I read your words. I love that we are thinking about these things – I believe it affects the world around us that we think and we strive. Thank you for writing such a thought provoking article – more power to your pen!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Pauline. You touched on so much that is important to me, things I think and overthink about:) I like your idea of life as a practice. It’s so true. We make choices and do the best we can–because..what else? And it is our work. I think that’s why so many choose not to grow or learn or become more aware: it truly is a lot of constant work! Your comments always inspire me to think more deeply into what I have written. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What you’ve written has helped me to wonder why sometimes I struggle to reread my own work with the hope of glimpsing some of the themes I’ve written about. Because I think, at least in my own case, much of the emotion that my writing becomes full of enters language without my become aware of it until later on. You’ve given me much to think about. And it sounds as if you had a very good time attending the lectures at Duke.

    Liked by 1 person

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