• Shana Ritter

Moving at the Speed of Slow


Yesterday I was home alone all day – I thought I would get a lot of writing done – it was quiet I had nowhere to be and I had taken care of immediate deadlines the evening before. My desk was clear. And yet I got very little done in terms of actual writing.

What I did do was slow myself way down – I fed the birds, watered the plants, made chicken cacciatore to share with a friend who’s been ill and another who’s been grieving, and I collaged to try and unravel just why my writing is moving so slowly these last few weeks.

Today sitting with writer friends who meet weekly in a small, usually silent, community of support I am still feeling slow but realize my perspective has shifted. The slowness feels like a presence, providing clarity, increasing my patience, and providing the rhythm I need to sit in the silence. Silence, I believe, provides the nurturance that generates language. Even though the focus of my writing currently is on a historical novel I know that the heart of my writing voice is poetry. I haven’t been giving that voice enough time or space, or silence.

In an essay by Li Young Lee (one of my favorite poets) he says “It’s like in architecture, where the medium is not really stone or metal, but space. We use materials—brick, glass, whatever—to inflect the immaterial, space. I would say that the real medium of poetry is inner space, the silence of our deepest interior.”

Thinking back on my day of cooking and collage I realize how much both have in common, the gathering of ingredients, the cutting, the combining, the small changes after I step back to taste or look, the easy physicality of creating something that speaks for itself. No words.

I recognize that for me to continue the daily work of laying story, I also need the silence that precedes poetry, and the poetry that follows silence.

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