The setting out, the road, and the arrival: all is imagination…Our memories of a place, no matter how fond we were of it, are little more than a confusion of lights on a ground of darkness. — Edwin Muir
How far have we come in understanding ourselves? The world?
Robert Fanning, a regional Michigan poet, whose first book—The Seed Thieves— is a collection of poems wherein “light” and “darkness” are integral images. (Is it the rippling, infinite reflection of sun upon Lake Michigan and the thousands of shadows of which each ripple-reflection shapes into light that has an influence?). Fanning uses these basic metaphors—light and dark— to conceptually extend their fundamental importance as they correlate to intuition.
Fanning’s poem “Light’s Bright Lies” is exemplary at exploring both experience—memory of encounter—and insperience—imaginative introspection. Fanning’s thoughtful emphasis is not on what we see, but how we feel about what we see. He contemplates what I consider the attentive effect; which is, that by looking and listening to the world it will sharpen ones’ senses, yielding imaginative insight.
In order to glean insight we must focus inward, withdraw; as Fanning writes with the poems opening line: “Tonight I leave the white electric hum / of streetlights.” With this, Fanning shows a transition from social to solitary; a departure from progress and development, wanting to slow down, to be lost; switching from what’s next to what’s now; shifting from shallow thought to deep feeling, searching not with intellect but with senses. The importance, ultimately, Fanning stresses is the necessity of sharpening our senses.
By observation we insperience the external. Insperience is the internalization, upon reflection, of experiences; thus, encounters and interactions with the world, with our immediate environment, lend to a heightened awareness, not limited to the light and shadows of oneself, but extended to the light and shadows beyond oneself. When he writes, “the eyes give in” he seems to be suggesting that this is an intrinsic act, if we were to allow, if we trust our intuition. This ‘giving in’ resonates with an image of looking inward, of introspection. A certain significance of sharpening senses is in one’s acquiescence with intuition. Through reflection of experiences we begin to strengthen our acknowledgement of this shadowed truth. Trusting this mysterious aspect of humanity is key to feeding the spirit with the light it is seeking. Fanning later in the poem writes, “a daring trust / in darkness saves a life.” This darkness could be our enigmatic intuition that so oft is neglected, not considered assuring, but Fanning writes of intuition as: “the real light, that burns by what it feels.” Fanning prompts the importance of faith, celebrating the comfort of intuition—of that “life inside my life take shape”. We console in what we believe. “To believe / I see”, as Fanning writes, implies that it is what we perceive of what’s present—how we feel of it— not what’s past, that is of intimate and eternal value. We can transcend only by being entirely in this one abundant moment, Now. The spirit is light, the body a dark cave without it! As it is with a poem we’re forms and what gives us shape is light and dark.
Fanning’s poem “Light’s Bright Lies” excellently captures the significance of images both light and dark, he releases them for the reader to try and reel in. Always there will be a “cave once lost to sight”, it is our duty to look into and feel through the dark for that “silver streaking eel” of ourselves, of this world, that of which is intuition.