Several summers ago, while at St. John’s University in Minnesota, I came across a book that had matched a poem by Ntozake Shange with paintings by American artist Romare Bearden (1912-88).
The poem began with its title line, “i live in music,” and ended with the line, “hold yourself in a music.” The paintings perfectly corresponded to Shange’s 25-line tribute to the language of music, each line partnered with one or two artworks.
In thought and vision the poetry is original; in feeling, unforgettable. Matched with the paintings, its spirit permeates the ear easily, and my heart fairly dances to the rhythm flowing through such lyrics as:
i live here in music i live on c# street my friend lives on b avenue . . . sound falls round me like rain on other folks saxophones wet my face . . .
I have been persuaded by these lines to define a world in which music resonates in harmony with art and poetry.
Music, we know, can provide our lives with pleasant moments. Music is conducive to dreams; it can relieve and even banish loneliness, sadness and pain; its charm soothes stressed hearts. Music, when performed, is a type of sculpture engraved eternally in the air of time. The English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) affirmed this view in “To — : Music, When Soft Voices Die” (1821), writing the lines: “Music, when soft voices die,/ Vibrates in the memory.”
Music, poetry and art together give life and cannot exist apart from each other. Music and art, I believe, constantly aspire to poetry as their essential element. Hence, a piece of music may be created through poetizing the elements of beautiful sound; and a piece of art by poetizing elements of visual beauty.
Music, art and poetry together express the aesthetic spirit. A piece of poetry is verbal art; it is primarily contemplative; it makes its reader or hearer think. A piece of music is acoustical art; it is primarily sensitive; it makes its listener feel. A piece of art is visual; it is primarily emotional; it makes its beholder see. These three powers of thinking, feeling and seeing combine in the creation and appreciation of art and poetry.
It is possible to derive great inspiration and learn a great deal about enjoying life from the poetic and aesthetic elements found in literature, art and music. These elements, I am convinced, are sine qua non for the peace and happiness of the soul, since aesthetic things jar when the soul is out of tune; the spirit of life fades when it is separated from beauty. Where great music or great art exists, the splendor of poetry also thrives.
To infuse your life with the spirit of poetry, I suggest the following:
Let us live in music to shine like the stars; Let us walk in its sound to lift loads from our minds; Let us wash in its dew to purify “today.”
Poetry, music and art all serve to create a companionable book of life; a book that teems with deep and evocative meanings, feeling and imagery on its pages.