Interior Houses

There is a difference between knowing and knowing.

Not necessarily inductive or deductive. But closer to the difference between an essay and a poem.

Essays examine, analyze, deduct, produce logical arguments, and conclude in a specific statement. This has a place in the world of knowledge; a place of communicating ideas and theories by means of organized and logical argument. The experience of the essay does not replace the experience of whatever is being analyzed.

But a poem – or well-written piece of prose – makes the experience immediately accessible to the reader. Rather than the glossing of the facts and attempt to explain the significance of the experience, fiction shares the weight of those moment and makes them a part of the reader’s immediate awareness and very self-ness. As Eudora Welty phrases it in her novel Delta Wedding,

She saw Uncle George lying on his arm on a picnic, . . . with a butterfly going across his gaze, a way to make her imagine all at once in that moment that he erected and entire, complicated house for the butterfly inside his sleepy body.

She had then known something he knew all along, it seemed then – that when you felt, touched, heard, looked at things in the world, and found their fragrances, they themselves made a sort of house within you, which filled with knowledge all by itself, and all else, the others ways to know, seemed calculation and tyranny.” (42)

Perhaps it is only the end of the semester blues, but I feel that such an appeal to the ways of knowing demands to be answered by another story or poem or piece of art. Not an essay. Not a form of writing that is by nature a means of classifying and analyzing, “calculation and tyranny”.

I simply want to let the works that I am reading to build their houses in me. To hold the beauty and wonder inside me and make it part of myself. To take the experience and live with it inside of me. To respond from my interior castle rather than strained mental gymnastics.

Alas, alack! Such is not the way of the academic world.


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