Flannery O’Connor had a penchant for the weird & the wild and a gift for finding beauty in both. After writing 101 poems in her voice, I have come to appreciate the strangeness she admired and become a convert to her brand of beauty. For what is symmetry, proportion, wholeness, and perfection—all classical ideals of beauty—set beside the homely, the lonely, the plain, and the maimed?
Life took me to Phoenix, where I still, after forty years here, recognize sunlight as the first ingredient of beauty. The spare beauty of the desert continues to bind me to the area, and it also highlights the fragility of so much we regard as being beautiful.
Often what interests me in poetry are the nuances, the description of something that is not easily expressed in words but that you can recognize and feel in your gut. Poetry articulates the inexpressible.
Perhaps when it’s the stage of the process, or a particular object, that we take to be fundamentally beautiful, then momentarily we forget ourselves and the differences between us and the object, empirical or transcendent, that seem so transparent after the experience of beauty.
Everything that exists has a unique mysterious element embedded within itself… The process of understanding the key ingredients of beautiful things comes from an obsession to create something similar. Long after admiration begins an abstract traverse of the mind. We first try breaking the crust of superficiality and then attempt to get beneath the intricate layers, all in the anticipation of touching the core of things that fascinate us.
Think of discovering how one object in nature can shape-shift into the character of another person or thing, such as the silhouette of a tree (in the moonlight) that becomes a Hopi flute player, an old woman with a cane or whatever the mind allows itself to see; this is the beauty of being aware, connecting the human soul to that of the natural world.
Our human vocation is to notice and respond to beauty, to the Great Beauty, which both calls us home to itself and out again into the world which we are called to beautify in our particular ways.
We first try to understand others’ view of things and then find openings in them where our own ways of seeing can fit, creating in the observers the same stirrings that the thing of beauty had first inspired in us.