Thank you to everyone who joined for this session!
James Baldwin’s “Untitled” (posted below) with its brevity and simplicity, its white space and four offset words captivated our group of thirteen (two new participants and a cadre of “the usual suspects” on Zoom) as we waded into this poem, which begins with an address and the request: “think about it please.” We commented on the tone and wondered: was the speaker being polite or confrontational or, perhaps, sarcastic in their asking the Lord about the rain? With all the rain and floods and tropical storms in the news there were plenty of images swirling in our minds. As we considered possible understandings of “rain” multiple people heard the poem as “a plea for mercy.” Some participants were drawn into the beauty of light falling on falling water; others felt tension, or were drawn to musical rhythms and sounds suggested by rain. We associated to the architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s well known house “Falling Water” and to the Allman Brothers’ recording of “Stormy Monday” with the words: “Lord have mercy.” The repetition of the word “light”—three times—brought connections to spiritual matters, including the expression “I will hold you in the light” as an intention to pray for someone. And what of the liminal space “beneath the water”? Deep, dark waters or baptism by immersion? Before moving on to our prompted writing, we agreed that the text allowed for multiple, paradoxical understandings.
Our prompt for this session was: “Write about a drizzle or a downpour.”
Five people read aloud their work referencing (a) patterns and problem solving in the Blues; (b) watering seeds into blossoms; (c) living in a place with an abundance of “gully washers” (a new expression for many of us!) and the anxiety that builds when much wet weather is forecast—enough that Xanax becomes a part of the preparation for storms; (d) an umbrella-bearing narrator who “needn’t avert my eyes from a drizzle of light” seemed to want more not less; and (e) an experience of grief as a raging river, the narrator feeling powerless but nevertheless reaching into the water and feeling it move around and past.
We noticed, in our communal writing, an abundance of thought in the shadow of Baldwin’s plea to “think about it please.” Here in the narrative blog we have an opportunity to go on reflecting and responding to each other.
Thank you everyone.
Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.
Also, we would love to learn more about your experience of these sessions, so if you’re able, please take the time to fill out a follow-up survey of one to two quick questions!
when you send the rain
think about it, please,
not get carried away
by the sound of falling water,
the marvelous light
on the falling water.
am beneath that water.
It falls with great force
and the light
me to the light.
James Baldwin, “Untitled” from Jimmy’s Blues. Copyright © 2014 by The James Baldwin Estate. Reprinted by permission of Beacon Press. Found on www: Poetry Foundation