Blue Like An Orange essay by Stephanie Pope for
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Blue Like An Orange
by stephanie pope

This past October I received word the poem, "Aglow In Oz", published in Literary House, a poetry anthology, 2008, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Of course, I was stunned—not to mention highly honored by this news and so very, very grateful to the publisher, Skyline Magazines, for considering the poem for this award. The poem was written during the James Hillman Conversations sponsored by Imaginal Institute between Feb-March as a prelude to JH's 80th birthday celebration in Pittsburgh that June. paper fan brooch
Swarovski Crystal on Hand painted paper

I kept some notes while I was participating in these conversations. I thought it might be time to share them since I imagine this was the way my orange moon in the poem got into the night garden where Pea the peahen came to roost one imaginal summer in February.

It seems I must've opened the second book David Miller mentioned in "Conversations" and fell into the blue sea and "C", as in 'conversation shades' I inwardly encountered. The book was written by Michel Pastoureau. It detailed the history of the color blue. Michel Pastoureau’s Blue: The History of a Color kept me staying in the notion that I entered “Conversations” through the image of blue and underwent a re visioning within the blue fires of those C's.

What happened to me during “Conversations” showed up as a night garden in which a peahen becomes the Beatrice to what subsequently poets five peahen poems. This poetic space brought together images of Rilke’s orange in a navy sky. This was a warm blue and not a cold blue it seemed (and still seems!) to me. I like Rilke's notion which suggests what it is to express the eros of blue; that there is this progressive shortening of the senses. And, I like how William Gass puts it in On Being Blue: "I can see you for miles; I can hear you for blocks; I can smell you, for a few feet, but I can only touch on contact, taste as I devour...

It seems it may have become a twisted sort of event imaginally. The five senses come together and dissolve back in the material imagination to achieve an expression that will outlast them i.e. what becomes the poem, "Aglow In Oz". Which of these senses was it that tended here deepest? I think it might have been my sense of decency.

At the end of Pastoreau's book he writes about blue today. He says blue changes its meaning in a very slow way, much slower than the pace at which our culture likes to move. Blue is a magical word this way. To keep up with blue you have to slow down. The word seduces and sells, pacifies and invites reverie. The music of its name in sounds is often sweet, pleasant and liquid. Its semantic field invokes the sky and the sea which I take to mean the imagination of air and water at work together. Well, this is where I go and something like this is what might have happened to me imaginally that produced the poem during “Conversations”.

Pastoreau writes this symbolic connection between blue and calm and peace is an old one, already presenced in the medieval color symbolism and later in the Romantic period. (It must've fit me like a glove!) But it is to our times that the link to water and to cold occurs. Blue is now a cold color where once, in those days, it was full of warmth. Somehow it is the warmth of blue that is remembered in the poem.

Perhaps it is because I began to think of a ‘cold peace’ as if it were like a living corpse image, a peahen, perched and barking at the night moon. I think of a sentinel peahen in the night garden in a kind of sol niger. And I think of it like Easter Morning in just that moment where the mouth of the mytheme opens to reveal the entrance to the underworld in which a body of Christ is nowhere to be seen.

To stand before the grave, before the gravity in the D-meter where no bodies pore; to experience the peaceable lightness of the darker, graver consonance in the bowel of the grave –it is hollow, it is empty like a reed; so should be I in my read. No bodies are nobody to be seen. No body landscapes alot of capability. Nobody's no-bodies ghost here. Maybe that is what a poem is and does. A poem's body is nobody's 'body'; to be seen.

In the remains of re-maining should some "I" rise and into the event from here become to presence poetized, then it is from here the poem ushers and utters. The poem is an attempt to recreate the likeness of the blue utter experienced.  What soul elevates? What body rises? Is it not the language double, the body double, the logos principle; is the speaker not the very word and the word doubling the body when spoken?

Poetizing lets a word reed through me that is not me at all but is to what I shall spire/in-spire/eXpire/as-pyre—blue fire! Poetizing words, words blue like an orange, let a self-generated language shine through. The metaphor’s radiant shades call the plays in the game on the field. I can imagine metaphors as the pomp poms of soul pomposities bluing the white formation that stories itself. I keep thinking this is like the terra alba Henri Corbin mentions.

I was not surprised to learn much later that peacocks and peahens are attracted to the color white and will perch in a tree like a night bird before the moon to literally bark at it much the way dogs do when the moon is full and white. Nor did it surprise me to learn how grandma added bluing to the wash to make her white linens appear whiter. But, when the movement is away from here, real but not quite ‘here’, for all the gold there is, who could buy such a blue?

The ear stretches to hear a soundless formation; another kind of whitening takes hold. Such hear in the otherwise daylife litterals through the absence of the voice is the voice of the speaking person. It is a kind of cosmic soul and an animal. That anima(l) is imaginally here; it hovers in the air between us—nay! Is the very air poetizing the language between us! It perches before us in the silent night tree with the orange moon in the navy sky behind it; the poem hangs in the the very air beneath it like fruit.

Many ones in ones and as ones a-part come to this hanging and become in tangent to it ‘spoken’ i.e. a-part in person spoken, but in mind (alone). I think of Pea in the garden tree at night and the Pea who is like a Tibetan prayer wheel and all these ‘persons’ of the five peahen poems and in each of our selves hanging in the pomposity of the night scent of Rilke’s soft orange poetic space in reverie. Tanzt die Orange! (see Sonnets To Orpheus, sonnet 15, Robt Hunter, trans.)

This pomposity is where some folk wish to suggest humanity wastes itself.  But for me the archetypal degrees grow warmer not colder here. The images are a marker to remind me what has happened for me. The moon is a happy fruit. The world is midnight blue.

It is Corbin who gives the mystery ‘middle image’ to me. He calls it an ‘earth-in-heaven’ and a ‘heavenly earth’ or paradise.  Such movement tells me soul-making requires a logos principle, a spirit, a divine vitality as David Griffin suggests, “to mind the storehouse of her images.” (Archetypal Process, 258)

Collectively, a good many of us began to call this poetizing movement for a re visioning of the earth from heaven in metaphorical terms, "the Blue Planet". This happened the moment we sent back from outer space the image of the “EarthRise”, the name we gave the space photograph in 1960 that showed the peacock planet in all its pompous regalia. But the poets beat us to it even earlier in 1929 when Paul Eluard called the collective image in our psyches “blue like an orange.”

Negative capability takes one into blue. It opens back a past still present in our collective memory, an oneric space, a space hollow and grave, like Easter morning before its hollow gravity. Here what you are talking about is taken from you. What you mean recedes and even seems to draw you after it. You are being shown what has risen, what is already be-come; although not exactly here it is real but in a body that cannot be seen. You hear this and then you here it.  A kind of foreshortening of the senses takes over. The more it withdraws, the more you are drawn into the shape of it. It is an imagistic necessity, all there and at once. There is no other other to it.

This is what it is to be—come the utter, the thing itself. The thought of the soul as a psychic spirit elevates the soul that is living in the night garden, real, but not exactly ‘here’. This is what it is to be blue. Like an orange.

Work Cited

Gass, William. On Being Blue. David R Godine Publisher, 1991.

Griffin, David. Archetypal Process: Self and Divine and Whitehead, Jung and Hillman. Northwestern University Press, 1990.

Pastoureau, Michel. Blue: The History of a Color. princeton University Press, 2001.


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