So, remember how I mentioned in my last post about Steppenwolf that some nuggets of wisdom might come from the intense experience of reading that book? Well, like a jagged rock that is smoothed over by ocean waves, these two new books provided a path to integrate that intensity into my system.. a sort of digestion process, maybe…
Both of these books have been on my “to-read” list for years, because of the curiosity that they both invoke in me. Both books were dream-like and activated my imagination, opened little pieces of my mind and heart, like pinpricks in a paper sphere. Ok, I realize that I am sounding a little ridiculous and contrived, but I feel a bit like I am living on a cloud after these two books.
So, let’s start with Invisible Cities. This is a series of tales (imagined by Calvino, but based on a real exchange) that the Venetian adventurer, Marco Polo shared with the Emperor Kublai Khan. Each segment is an exploration of place, filled with details that go beyond reality, combining solid architecture with dreamscapes and sensations. If you, as reader, give yourself over to the experience, the passages lead to a state of contemplation, serving as meditations on what is real and what is perceived.
In The Poetics of Space, Bachelard similarly transports the receptive reader to a state of mind where possibility opens up. Through meditations on nests, corners, roundness, immensity, and so much more, I learned about the poetic process, became transfixed on the poetic image, and questioned the difference between psychoanalysis and phenomenology. Very intellectual-sounding subjects, but when I found myself releasing into the experience of the poems he provided, and his journey into the way that they represent a sense of space, a place that we all know but rarely expound on, I found myself blissfully floating through a world made up of both concrete subject matter and daydreams.
I have struggled with letting go of reality in my reading at times, resistant to allowing the inner and outer worlds to combine. Reading these two books was like an exercise that strengthened my integration process— and helped me to realize that Hesse’s Steppenwolf was perhaps so harsh because he emphasized division, and what happens when our psyche is stuck in a binary predicament. These books wove those worlds together, and the world seems a different, and more expansive place for having read them.