Thursday, January 25, 2007

Jeanne Murray Walker and the 'heart'

I met LeAnne Benfield Martin this summer at a writing workshop conducted by Jeanne Murray Walker, an English professor at the University of Delaware and the award-winning author of six volumes of poetry and many theater scripts. This week, Martin has posted a two-part interview with Walker on her blog.

In the interview, Walker made a passing reference to the "heart," and I think it's insightful. Lately I've been writing about the common presupposition that the "heart" can be a non-rational center of understanding and knowing, and more particularly, about how hard it is to define "heart" in that context.

Here's what Walker said:

Looking at a bowl of strawberries ripening in the window as I make dinner, I wonder why poetry sometimes seems so trivial. It is a force a thousand times more powerful than cost-efficiency. I’m fixing meatloaf because I can make two meatloaves and freeze one for later. Yes. Okay. Cost effectiveness, the rational mind at work. But why am I cooking at all? I could open a can. I could order out. But I love the pressure in my thumb and fingers as I cut garlic. I love the smell of bread in the oven. I love the astonishing green of fresh asparagus. I am driven to cook for my family by whatever once drove me to change twenty diapers a day without thinking about the clock. Cooking and poetry make sense, not by the mathematically calculated standards of capitalism, but by something we glibly call the heart. As Anna Kamienska wrote, When the intellect really tries, it can, for a time, replace the sun, but it will never ripen strawberries.

Read all of the Walker interview at Martin's blog, http://christiansinthearts.blogspot.com .

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