Thank you so much for answering my questions and accepting to work with my students!
Here is my book review if you want to learn more about Through the Shadows.
When Did You Know You Wanted to Write?
When I was studying at the Boston Conservatory I would often write in notepads, recording thoughts, observations, reflections, etc., on a variety of subjects, though at the time I wasn’t thinking about writing in a serious way, or publishing literary work. But not long after graduation I realized I had enough material for a number of books following a review of what I’d written, and was inspired to give greater attention to literary expression while concurrently being drawn to a solitary environment, feeling more at home in my own cerebral habitat than in the company of others with ambitions that didn’t harmonize with the inclinations that were moving me in a different direction. It was then that I made the decision to devote as much time and energy as I could to the writing of new material and constructing the volumes that I would later produce.
Something that might be of interest here as an addendum to the above, is that what I learned from the study of music composition was of considerable help when turning to the project of structuring my books, recognizing in the process that a well-crafted score of music and book both have features in common that resemble architecture, having an order that brings all the elements of the work together, presenting a designed creation of variety within unity.
Poetry seemed to be the most suitable medium for the communication of many of the ideas that were coming to light once the commitment to writing was made. Another factor that in all probability had an influence in gravitating toward this genre and adopting it for some of my creative work, is the strong affinity between poetry and music, and how poetry could be thought of as “word music”; i.e., the rhythm of the lines, the flow and tempo of the phrases, stanzas, etc., in the author’s mind when composing them, and also the importance of how the words sound (as in music); this dimension of a good poem being as important as what the poem is saying. So (again), it is unlikely that my background in music didn’t have something to do with poetry becoming part of my literary venture.
How Would You Define Poetry?
From my perspective, poetry is the highest form of literary art there is; one that exhibits the most sophisticated employment of language that continues to be invented. Metaphor, imagery and skillful wordplay can be found in other genres, but it is in poetry where manifestations of the imagination and deep insight and vision can be expressed with a power that no other branch of literature can equal, nor can it be matched in moving the human heart and spirit, save for the power of great music. I would also say that the creation of poetry and to some degree, the appreciation that some readers have for it require a poetic sensibility that has much to do with how one sees the world when looking out through the mind’s eye, open and receptive to the countless opportunities for poetry to be born and offerings of new insight into the nature of things and connections between them that go far beyond the surface, ever cognizant of the rich diversity and wonder that is life.
A Commentary on Solitude
For reasons that include but are not confined to subjective experience, I believe solitude is essential for the cultivation of creativity and forging an originality that breaks free of all convention and conformity that stifle the growth of the human spirit. It has the agency to build an inner strength able to face whatever challenges one is confronted with, and overcome obstacles barring the way to a transformation vital to the realization of one’s potentials.
Given the many distractions of today from the lure of social media and noise of constant advertisements and needless information vying for your time and attention, it is especially important for those who are interested in creative production to have a space for themselves where nothing from the outside can enter; a sanctuary to frequent that needn’t always be of the same physical surroundings, but ever conducive to quiet reflection and states of meditation that open the mind to novel ways of thinking, and offer the most favorable occasions for invention that could possibly generate something unique and of significant value.
And even if one’s calling is not that of an artist or of the creative, no one can realize his or her best without fostering a kinship with solitude, for how can you know what you are thinking with full clarity until alone with your thoughts? Or assess the utility or wisdom of your activities, or separate the truly important from the unimportant, the banal from the profound with greater precision anywhere else than in the inviolable space of solitary contemplation?
Taking stock of where improvements can be made, or what behaviors need to be modified or habits changed that are obstructing the attainment of one’s best is by a process of introspection, an internal inventory that precedes the inner work that has to be engaged if one is to do what is necessary to raise the quality of one’s life [one’s being], turning attention to what is paramount to the endeavor of working one’s way to the actualization of the highest good and excellence that one can achieve.
The following quotes are from my book, “Atoms from the Suns of Solitude” that provides a broader exploration of the immeasurable value of spending time alone for the spiritual health and growth of a human life.
The more that is learned and experienced, the more striking becomes the unspoken message that the answers one seeks, the guidance that is needed to find one’s way must come from within.
To go to the eternal is not to go to a place of final rest, but to an inner world rich in spiritual power and bliss.
The inner journey is the journey of a human life, for no hope can there be for transcendence until it begins.
By society, breadth may be added to a life, but the creation of inner depth is the domain of solitude.
The greater the inner depth, the higher its reach.
Freedom has ultimately to do with what is going on within, not with external mobility, or what one is able to do by what exists outside oneself.
Spiritually speaking one gains more when walking alone than when running with the herd.
As an eagle without a sky is a human spirit without a solitude.
The louder the world becomes, the weaker the connection to the higher instinct to move humanity to what is more than the noise and masquerade of the fleeting.
If always available for the temporalities of the day, of what service can one be to what is true and everlasting?
No more can one access spiritual treasure without inner work than one can stand before a mine of the earth and summon its metal to the surface.
There is no greater gift that human beings can give than to pass on the best of gifts that are bequeathed to humanity, realized through finding within what is void of ego, what speaks to the universal, set forth in a variety of manner and form to serve the hope for a world of less ignorance than wisdom, of more light than darkness, of less emnity than love.
* * * *
Carroll Blair is an author of more than twenty
books in philosophy and poetry and the recipient
of numerous awards. His work has been well
endorsed and commendably reviewed. Among
his titles cited for distinction are the poetry
volumes Through the Shadows, winner of the
Pacific Book Awards, Facing the Circle, winner
of the Great Southwest Book Festival Awards,
Shifting Tides, winner of the Great Northwest
Book Festival Awards, and Quarter Notes,
winner of the Sharp Writ Book Awards.
He is an alumnus of the Boston Conservatory
and lives in Massachusetts.