Sunday, November 22, 2020


 I think it began with the "Gate of Gratitude," the original title of what has become my chapbook "Portal of Light." For some reason, once I had a gate, I decided that the gate would lead to a ziggurat.  It sounded Biblical or at least ancient and somewhat poetical.  The next step was research, and when I look back at the early drafts of the chapbook, I find entries on the hanging gardens of Babylon and the ziggurat supposedly designed by Sennacherib for his favorite wife, that involved sluice gates and Archimedes screws and the importation of vast quantities of trees and plants to duplicate the geography of wherever she came from. Despite this, Sennacherib was a despicable leader given to acts of cruelty against his enemies.  There is actually no evidence that Nebuchadnezzar of Biblical fame ever built a ziggurat or the hanging gardens of Babylon, whereas the British museum has some bas reliefs that show the levels of a ziggurat apparently constructed under Sennacherib, with the amazing plants that he installed there. 

Somehow looking at all those colorful renderings of a variety of ziggurats, inspired me to create levels of trees, shrubs, and flowers in my chapbook, and as I planted them in my lines, the ziggurat rose in my poetry.  It became an entity unto itself, which I fiercely defended against what I judged were unjust attacks by my daughter.  However, as she patiently chipped away at the construction, I slowly began to see that it was misplaced, and not an integral part of the chapbook.  At first, I thought it was the structure that supported the whole chapbook, but as I looked at it through her eyes, I realized that it was more like the first preliminary drawing or even 3D replica that enabled me to start the actual building but was more of a jumping off place that enabled me to soar into a higher creativity.

I finally, after months of wrangling with my daughter-critic, removed the ziggurat from my chapbook and replaced it with a landscape more reminiscent of the hills around Jerusalem, but as I was re-reading the notes I made on constructing my ziggurat, I was lifted up with a sudden joy at remembering how I copied many beautiful pages of artists' creative imaginings of what a ziggurat might have looked like, with plants ascending through all the layers. I felt as if I were a lark piercing the sky and singing for the sheer joy of the beauty all around me, even if it is all imaginary. It will probably evolve into a separate poem, because I loved so many of the lines, and I am beginning to see the glimmerings of a different journey than the one I took in "Portal of Light."  It is exciting to realize that the poetic journey is never really finished, that what ends in one long journey can open into new paths and an ever-widening vision.

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