-- Muriel Rukuyser, from The Life of Poetry
Muriel Rukuyser's words express, in my opinion, one of the great secrets of filidecht. The poet and the poem are intertwined. Every act of writing undertaken with intention creates some subtle change within the body of the writer; it sows the seeds of evolution in mind and spirit.
Using writing to create deliberate change is an act of magic at its root. Words change the world and so by their nature they also change the self. When we look at the concept of the "connecting thread of poetry" found in the early Irish laws texts we find the rationale for how that change may be seen to take place. Tug on a thread and the rest of the web will feel it. As writers and poets, we cannot help but shift and change within ourselves as we find the words to express what's in our hearts and minds. To write, to recite, or to compose is to incubate the images we store within us and ripen them into expression.
When we contemplate the images as we work toward a poem on the page we are learning to understand them. Writing, like teaching, so often forces me to confront my knowledge so that it can be enumerated and expressed. To leave it unwritten or unsaid in some sense leaves it incomplete and untried. This is part of how writing the poem changes the poet; it creates within us a matrix for understanding that may not have previously existed.
Rukuyser speaks of how she took eight years or more to write a particular poem, starting from a brief note taken of an image, and living with that image in the course of her everyday being. As time went by, it became more nuanced. It gained accretions of experience and resonance. Eventually, words began to take form on paper, slowly thought over and edited, opened out and explored. The poet who produced the final poem was changed by that process, no longer the same person who had noted the initial, sparking image that grew into the finished piece.
What we turn our thoughts to in our writing will, in many ways, influence who and what we become. As we brew those images and experiences in our internal cauldrons we extract nourishment from them. They grow like reefs within us, changing our internal landscapes and structures. They wound us or heal us as we carry the shadows of them within. The best of our poems and our other writings recreate us and make us anew. We are reborn.