myth and poetry
 

mP Review
Connie L Williams , Looking For Lilith
reviewed by Stephanie Pope
Looking For Lilith
Sage Books, ©2006
ISBN # none     $9.95

 

Looking For Lilith: Poetic Heart, Divine Face

I understand there is a difference between a woman or man of knowledge and a woman or man of ordinary thought. The ordinary (wo)man does not know the power of his/her being. The (wo)man of knowledge does know his/her source and power. For a poet that power is called muse and that source is the source of their poetry.

Today I am looking at a little poetry chapbook with a lovely drawing of a ghost-maiden in a gossamer gown standing upon and before a fluid threshold under a night sky. The chapbook is published by Sage Books and written by Connie L Williams. It is entitled Looking For Lilith. Through the title, and before I even open this book, the authored image has conveyed two things. First, the image reveals her muse. Second, the inspirational tone reflects this muse as presenced through absence. The muse is found nowhere, is ‘not here’ in the way the muse is presenced here and will be presenced here within the pages of Looking For Lilith.

The idea suggests one will have to penetrate between poetic spaces because an invisible subjectivity is telling the story. The muse, Lilith is not here the way Calliope is ‘here’ to history.  Calliope, the muse of history is invisible but presenced literally as part of our national soul and family soul. Lilith, the muse in a woman of knowledge and the subjective voice in this book of poetry, is also invisible but absent in representation and presenced as an absence-space the poet saw once and is trying to find her way through –a way of looking. Part of the skill of this excellent poet is the way the poet apprehends the myth of Lilith and serves this subjective yet impersonal voice of the inner teller, the musing life. This voice, let me make clear, is not part of our human and civilized ego construct.

Connie L Williams is a clever mythopoetic storyteller. One example of this cleverness appears between the preface of the book and the table of contents. The preface reveals the particular version of the myth of Lilith and I suspect provides the author the “natural” order in which the poems appear. This is contrasted nicely against two cultural and historically conditioned constructs for order that appear on the opposite page as and in the table of contents.

Normally in a table of contents one would expect to see poem titles arranged by number order. The poem appearing on the first page of the book would come first; the poem on page two would come second and so forth. There is another ordering principle being applied to the table of contents.

This second ordering principle involves organizing the poem titles alphabetically. Titles beginning with an “A” are at the beginning whereas titles beginning with “W” and “Y” appear last. Immediately one notices the ordering principle one way, the way alphabetically, throws the number ordering principle out of balance in terms of page number-order the other way. Through order subtlety the poet suggests our socially conditioned civilized ways can also sin against our own deep natures and each other and cause us disorder in our inner-ordered other-keeping life. This clever displacement trick suggests the mythogenic zone and our own way in to undestanding these twenty-seven poems, can be found in the little preface positioned upon and before the table of contents in the opposing page. It is as follows

And I have seen that which I did not know that I had seen
For it came in natural order, as a point on the compass
Rising before me as Ra, and the Rosiness thereof
And the whole of the law was before us, emerging, and
Nuit arched behind the death of Osirus eternally risen
Devouring the law with her given breath, having eyes
That see, the east approaches
                                                     -Preface, Looking For Lilith


One may begin to understand the poet’s sense for the archetypal ordering principle, the ‘natural’ order, by pausing before the mythic images presented in the preface and stepping out of them and into another set of mythic images more familiar to many of us, the Christian Bible. In a famous passage from Psalms, the Bible also talks about an image in darkness and of darkness that moves; negotium perambulans in tenebris (Psalms 90:5-6)

Our creaturely nature, in recognizing what is coming is not already known, experiences fear of this unknown. The image that induces such fear can be used (and also used against our natures) to make and keep (them and us in) order. Such an order psychologically speaking, one that teaches you your nationality, your ancestral inheritance, your religious images, etc. belongs to your sense of identity within a group and is an identity construct, both egoic and superegoic. Yet, and although it is a fear-based construction, such order will not erase a deeper knowledge that one has seen what one does not know that one has seen…and is. Furthermore, one will seek out this unknown known or should.

Many already suggest our shadow nature gives way to the anima presence and precedes knowledge of it. In a sense I am suggesting the shadow itself announces the presence of the creative principle that is one’s very nature, one’s contra naturam order, one’s lumenositas sensus naturae, one’s immanence or expressed participation in the nature of divine life. Opposing the Law of Order and disorders is this other. Psychology calls it the anima. Psalms call it negotium perambulans in tenebris. The poets have called it muse and likened it to a most beautiful dream woman and as if it were all that really matters. In Looking For Lilith the poet writes

Julie’s painting doesn’t really have a name
It hangs on the wall in front of me like Aunt Nellie’s quilt
Waiting to be explained. When I drift into the infinite blackness
Of that space, beyond the simple silver moon, the verdant blue
Complex Earth, I realize that beyond may just be another word

For before, and the whisper of spirit drifting in and
Out of perspective throughout these radiating galaxies

All that really matters
                                          -Julie’s Painting                
                                         

This particular strophe reminds me of something I heard Brother David Stendahl-Rast say. He was talking about Rilke’s mysticism and more specifically poetic ideas contained within The Book of Hours. Brother David unfolded the following idea: “Show me the face you had before you were born!” There is something about creation that is nihilistic. This is what is being recognized in the poem and in the poem's metaphor of the painting as "Julie's" and as a "creation" and also in what is being re-cognized as "the before face" in Brother David’s turning through Rilke’s mystical look. The deep heart of the poetry cherishes this as the divine face, the one that was there before the creation began.

Every artistic creation involves shattering/breaking/changing the face that is there in an attempt to recreate the original face. The best one can do, thought Carl Jung toward the end of his life, was to try and tell the story of this movement throughout the epochs and annals of time. The most we can do is mythologize, a term whose archetypal idea is first presented by James Hillman. That is what myths do and why we retell them. Mythic images are shattered images. No matter how far back you go in time you cannot approach that point of origin that is the first myth ever told and unblemished image never seen though seen moving…even as in our depths, we remember this…


I have seen that which I did not know that I had seen
For it came in natural order, as a point on the compass…

There are cracks in everything, particularly myths and that is how something new–like poetry–comes into being.  No doubt, that is how Looking For Lilith originally began.

Gaps Between Myths

Happen when we become the myth…
No-thing is as it seems, delicate filaments
Tremble in the throat of the flower
Dying from thirst, Her time was ended
Or so it seems, and yet She lives
Master of masters mastered and
Restored in the underworld of
Matter, waiting for a New World order
Or chaos to emerge…
                                                        -Gaps Between Myths, p16


Looking for Lilith can be purchased by writing
Sage Publishers at 301 North 19th St., Lamesa, Texas 79331
You may write Connie L Williams at sagewoman@nctv.com



additional links

Connie L Williams/ Forrest Fest My Space

Forrest Fest

Forrest Fest Schedule


For background regarding the Babylonian pre-Lilith, the Hebraic Lilith, the Egyptian Lilith: legend of Ra, and Sappho’s ghost-maiden of Lesbo see Isis, Lilith, Gello: Three Ladies of Darkness by Alejandro Arturo Gonzákez Terrica

mythopoetics mythopoesis
click here for copyright statement