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What is the use of talking? (Letter from the editor, April.)

Today is April Fool’s day, so I could talk about the joyous and sorrowful foolishness of all human endeavor, most especially of publishing small online magazines named after birds. But instead, in true Magpies’ style, I will tell you about two poems that I love.

This is the end of a poem by Ezra Pound, The Exile’s Letter, which is a translation ‘From the Chinese of Li Po, usually considered the greatest poet of China: written by him while in exile about 760 A. D., to the Hereditary War-Councillor of Sho, “recollecting former companionship.”’

And if you ask how I regret that parting?
It is like the flowers falling at spring’s end,
                    confused, whirled in a tangle.
What is the use of talking! And there is no end of talking—
There is no end of things in the heart.

And this is..

I Know a Man

By Robert Creeley

As I sd to my   

friend, because I am   

always talking,—John, I

sd, which was not his   

name, the darkness sur-

rounds us, what

can we do against

it, or else, shall we &

why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for   

christ’s sake, look   

out where yr going.

These two poems have not been far from my thoughts since I first read them decades ago. These words are some of my oldest friends. And since I’ve started compiling Tidings of Magpies these words are fairly constant residents in my mind, echoing in that empty cavern, bouncing off the walls and taking flight with the flocks of bats.

I love to talk, I love to discuss, and banter, and disagree, and agree, and connect, and despair of never connecting, and learn, and share a joke, and share things I love–songs and movies and books, and learn about those things that somebody else loves. I love words so much. And I’m also profoundly fond of silence, and aware that all that is most important transcends words. In a world of constant noise and bickering and shouting for attention, it’s sometimes a joy to remember the weight of silence.

What is the use of talking? I’ve been thinking about this so much, though in my head it’s not just talking, it’s any manner of creating. Any manner of recording what you see and feel, of capturing moments of your lives and dreams, or the lives and dreams of the people in your head. And it’s also the act of sharing that with others. (Including the mad idea of publishing some small-but-mighty magazine.) My naturally buoyant nature, floating like a lost balloon over the ocean of too-much-too-much, is sometimes dragged deep into murky water by the sea-monster of discouragement. (what is the use of metaphors? And are there ever too many metaphors?)

And that’s where these poems come in. Because by talking and creating and sharing we can cope with and celebrate the no-end-of-things-in-our-hearts. And by talking and creating and celebrating we can dispel the darkness that surrounds us. Because what is there to life besides these moments of connection? It doesn’t have to be spoken, it doesn’t have to be with a person, it could (and should) be with your dog, or a tree, or a moody April sky. Sometimes in the middle of the night the darkness of human cruelty and the incessant history of human ignorance and selfishness can be overwhelming. But then I think about people creating things. When people create things, when they work on something they think is good and beautiful, they light a spark, and those sparks dispel the darkness. They always have, and they always will. And that is important, that is essential. That is the monumentally important use of talking.

And sharing these little lights, giving them a voice, letting their voices loose like wayward fireworks, feels important to me, even on this small level. It’s not much, but it’s not nothing. Of course there will be times of much talking and times of silence, periods of great creativity and periods of fallowness, moments of hope and moments of discouragement. Sometimes we will feel that there is no use of talking, and that we can’t talk, but we will find our voice.

And maybe we can never say exactly what we want to say, we can’t find the exact right words, or notes, or strokes of paint, but that doesn’t matter, because the point is in trying.

“The point is in life, in life alone–discovering it, constantly and eternally, and not at all in the discovery itself. But what is the point of talking? I suspect that everything I am saying now sounds so much like the most common phrases that I will probably be taken for a student in the lowest grade presenting his easy on ‘the sunrise….’ But, nevertheless, I will add that in any ingenious or new human thought, or even simply in any earnest human thought born in someone’s head, there always remains something which it is quite impossible to convey to other people, though you may fill whole volumes with writing and spend thirty-five years trying to explain your thought; there always remains something that absolutely refuses to leave your skull and will stay with you forever; you will die with it, not having conveyed to anyone what is perhaps most important in your idea.”

The Idiot, Dostyevsky

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