Poets portray time—the past, the future, the passage of time, this moment now, and changes over a lifetime. Moments may be in front of us or behind us. Fictional poems can be set in the future or in a world where altitude or colors influences the passage of time. Our brains do funny things with timely insight and the words that create colorful images in the hint of an instance.
Alan Lightman penned a fascinating book of fiction, Einstein’s Dreams, where he weaves together stories dreamt by Albert Einstein in 1905, about time, relativity, and physics. The stories speak of places where time moves more quickly in the valleys and rich people live on the mountain tops. He creates cities where time passes in such a way that people can write down their experiences in the moment but no one remembers yesterday or the past at all. Every reading of an ancient poem is as if for the first time.
We can also describe and ponder time in a particular place. The language we use changes everything. “Spatial metaphors are typically arranged along the sagittal axis [front to back] in most languages. In English, “The future lies ahead of us” and “We look back on our past.” This is less straightforward for Chinese. Specifically, both the past and future can either be behind or ahead.” (Frontiers in Psychology, 2017).
An article in The Journal of Analytical Psychology took a different perspective on the varied impact of time, “Immersion in time gives birth to consciousness, as well as conflict and torment. When human beings developed a sense of future, they also gained the ability to anticipate threats from nature or their fellow beings. They thereby created cultures that are bastions of survival, as well as places of poetry, art and religion where they could band together and reflect upon their common plight . . . acceptance of the contradictory nature of temporal [time-related] experience can open space for increased freedom and playfulness” (The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 2015).
Playfully, you might want the room or lighting for your next poetry reading to be red. Time speeds up in a red room. A recent study on the effect of colors on individuals’ time perception found “perceived duration was shorter in a red condition than in a blue one” (International Journal of Psychology, 2017).
When we read or write poems about the past or future, we use our episodic memory. Researchers describe episodic memory as part of a general system, unique to humans, for mental time travel, and the construction of future episodes. They note, “The properties of language are aptly designed for the communication and for the telling of stories; these properties include symbolic representation of the elements of real-world events, time markers, and combinatorial rules. Language and mental time travel probably co-evolved during the Pleistocene era, when brain size increased dramatically” (Experimental Brain Research, 2009).
A relationship between time and movement shows up when we use action verbs to describe things as moving slowly or speeding up. It gets interesting when the things being described are not actually moving yet are paired with action verbs like crawl, march, or fly. Whether we are describing something that is moving through time or something that is static, the words we use influence both our brain and body. “Language of time is at least partially grounded in experiential time” (Cortex, 2016).
Feel in your mind and your body the relationship between time, space, and movement in my poem “Time Travels” published in the April, 2017 Volume of The Year Of The Poet (Inner Child Press).
slowly moving through space
A caterpillar crawling upwards
on a leaf
encountering the new world
The trail crawls up the mountain side
carving out a space for itself
trees and flowers watching as it climbs
And with the movement time flies
like a rocket from days gone towards
a yet unborn future
Jets stirring the clouds
as they fly from here to there
carrying us through an abundance of feelings
Fruit flies gather to eat
on the rough underbelly of life
quickly multiplying in time
And time marches on
covering great distances
or curling up at home
A soldier of fortune
marching us towards the place
where the winds of an era blow strongest
And March turns to April
as we celebrate
cyclic changes in time
Can you see the trail crawling in your mind’s eye or time marching on? Imagine your body “in” time.
Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? TrishHopkinson.com is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts.
See yourself in the pattern. As a 28-year-old photographer, Kimberly Burnham appreciated beauty. Then an ophthalmologist diagnosed her with a genetic eye condition saying, “Consider life, if you become blind.” She discovered a healing path with insight, magnificence, and vision. Today, a poet and neurosciences expert with a PhD in Integrative Medicine, Kimberly’s life mission is to change the global face of brain health. Using health coaching, Reiki, Matrix Energetics, craniosacral therapy, acupressure, and energy medicine, she supports people in their healing from nervous system and chronic pain issues. A current project is taking pages from medical literature and turning them into visual poetry by circling the words of the poem and coloring in the rest—recycling words into color and drawing out the poem.
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