Reader Logo by John Siddique

You know those days when a word just keeps popping up? Well a while back I had four incidences of hearing antimacassars on the same day, and just this morning ‘darshan’ has popped up three times in three very different places. If you don’t know the word, it means something like ‘gazing at the face of god.’ I know it from the Hindu idea of spending time looking at the higher and allowing yourself to be filled by that loving interaction.

The reason I bring this up in a piece on a literary site is that I find I often use books in this way. Some books, especially poetry books it seems have a connection to something much larger than one’s small self encoded into their texts. ee cummings’ poetry can have me sitting for an hours just gazing at a single poem ‘somewhere i have never travelled gladly beyond…’ So too Neruda, Galway Kinnell, Dorothy Molloy, Walt Whitman, Sharon Olds. It would be lovely to know of your experiences of this kind of transportation, and which writers you feel do this for you.

Sometimes it's simply the book itself, the texture of the paper, the author’s image, the feel of the book in one’s hand, or the whole aesthetic of the production - I’m thinking of a fantastic copy of Robert Grave’s Greek Myths which I’m lucky enough to have on the shelf at the side of me, though there are many books which I could also list.

The main reason I wanted to mention the idea of darshan though is that it is a very important thing for an artist to do. It is perhaps one of the main ways of taking artistic nourishment. All too often we feel we are on our own in this strange world. We help someone out and there is no reciprocation, we get a mediocre review, or we don’t get any reviews. Books which are total crap compared to yours hoover up all the attention cos the author is the great grand daughter of someone who did something or other, and shall we mention arts cuts…. All this stuff is out there and it does its very best to get our attention. ‘You shouldn’t be reading, there’s panicking to do. There’s all this stuff that you need to feel bad about right now.’ Between the streams from Twitter and Facebook, the hollow ring of the arts pages in the papers and the lack of anything much on the telly, if we can find a moment we can have darshan with the greatest writers from any time in literature’s history, the same is true of music and art. Of course it is also there in the eyes of one’s love, children and so on, but darshan with literature can be just for us, no need to attend to, to speak, to tweet about. It just is.

Editor's note:
John’s new book Full Blood is out now from Salt Publishing.

Photo credit: Shifteye

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