On Wednesday last I went to see Stephanie Hlywak, media director at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago (stay tuned for the interview).
I got out of the cab, spotted the words ‘poetry foundation’ on a shallow step in front of me,
and cleverly deduced that I was at the right place. But where was the entrance? How was I to get in? No door. No directions. Just a slim little path running along side the building, to my right,
a few trees, a short step up, and, straight ahead, an inscription on the wall honouring Ruth Lilly.
What the hell. I’ll follow the passage way. Into an enclosed courtyard it led me. Across it, via a diagonal opening between trees – at a slant if you will – lay the door. Perhaps an employee entrance I thought. Nothing on it. Locked. Was I in the right place? Maybe the main entrance was on the other side of the building? So I banged, tentatively, and waved at a woman who sat behind a desk in what appeared to be a library of sorts. I could see her because the space, the building, the walls, are not opaque. They’re made out of glass.
I got in – and soon announced the purpose of my presence.
Stephanie subsequently explained that my experience of the previous five minutes was just what the building’s architect John Ronan had hoped for when he designed the place: a duplication of how one feels when approaching and entering a poem.
It put me in mind of this by Emily Dickinson:
I dwell in Possibility–
A fairer House than Prose–
More numerous of Windows–
Of Chambers as the Cedars–
Impregnable of Eye–
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky–
Of Visitors–the fairest–
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise–