The Soul Of Genius

 

 

Back in 2015, Blackwell's Bookshops and the Bodleian Library jointly offered an Academic Writing Prize of £2,500 for the best student essay entitled What is Genius? It was timed to celebrate the opening of the new Weston Library where an inaugural exhibition, Marks of Genius, displaying 130 of the Bodleian's greatest treasures, was being mounted. Whilst 'genius' is a hackneyed term which undervalues its essential meaning, perhaps, after all, it is universally available.

I have been unable to discover the winning essay, but decided to share with you a few thoughts in the following poem. This is from my second collection, Mysteries of Light, which is currently being compiled.

 

 

A Talent Set On Fire
 

Genius is talent set on fire by courage.
Henry Van Dyke


Genius is interior light
the fathomless world of the crystal
caught in a needling sunbeam
or quivering candlelight

It is not of itself intellectual
nor inspiration, acumen, slick memory
the crisp organisation of words
on the uninformed page

Genius burns without consuming
like Moses' bush on Sinai
discard your mental shoes
this is Holy Ground
a penetrating glimpse
of form and meaning
hard edges melting
in luminous mist
patterns within patterns
reverberant echoes
from wild forgotten caves
pounded by tides subject
to lunar magnetism
the synaptic lightning
forked from the lodestone
of archaic memory

The landscape of genius
is the sheer rock face
grappled with irons and grit
for a squint at Eternity

 

The Great White Peak - Edgar Payne

from Mysteries of Light (forthcoming collection)

Comments 2

 
Stephen Evans on Sunday, 09 April 2017 04:42

I sometimes feel writing is like flying, flapping your wings up and down over and over in an attempt to stay aloft long enough to catch an updraft that lifts you where you know you'd never have the power to go on your own. Then you come down again and your wings are rested and you can keep on a while longer in hope.

I sometimes feel writing is like flying, flapping your wings up and down over and over in an attempt to stay aloft long enough to catch an updraft that lifts you where you know you'd never have the power to go on your own. Then you come down again and your wings are rested and you can keep on a while longer in hope.
Rosy Cole on Sunday, 09 April 2017 17:40

That's a very good simile. So true!

As I see it, genius is 'spirit' and can be good or bad, either creative or subversive. We're all gifted innate capabilities, but the kindling of true inspiration in any context comes from perseverance on the one hand, or a slippery desire to cheat on the other. Writers may have light-bulb moments with ideas and themes and starting points, but the kind of inspiration that takes it to another level and holds it together only comes from graft.

That's a very good simile. So true! As I see it, genius is 'spirit' and can be good or bad, either creative or subversive. We're all gifted innate capabilities, but the kindling of true inspiration in any context comes from perseverance on the one hand, or a slippery desire to cheat on the other. Writers may have light-bulb moments with ideas and themes and starting points, but the kind of inspiration that takes it to another level and holds it together only comes from graft.
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