on reading virginia woolf’s “to the lighthouse” while beginning to write poetry again for the first time in months

I’m out of practice.  The mechanisms for turning sensation and vision into words are there, but almost too rusty.  For anyone who’s ever attempted to glean something meaningful and artistic from one’s own frail, human thoughts…this passage that I read several days ago in Woolf’s To the Lighthouse rings painfully true:

“She could see it all so clearly, so commandingly, when she looked: it was when she took her brush in hand that the whole thing changed.  It was in that moment’s flight between the picture and her canvas that the demons set on her who often brought her to the verge of tears and made this passage from conception to work as dreadful as any down a dark passage for a child.  She often felt herself–struggling against terrific odds to maintain her courage; to say: “But this is what i see; this is what I see,” and to clasp some miserable remnant of her vision to her breast, which a thousand forces did their best to pluck from her.” (p. 19)

The subject here are the artistic endeavors of Lily Briscoe as she attempts to paint.  The jump between vision to brush to canvas is equally as daunting for Lily as that from sensation to pen to paper for me.  But the exaltation of (any) human experience that we wish to record for others to feel is so strong that we must push onward, through the pain of our own inadequacy, for the love of life itself.

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