Staring back at you

Cristian Ispir
2 min readNov 13, 2023
The Eccentric Hanshan, by Kao Ninga, 14th century Ink on paper, Tokyo National Museum

When I stare at the blank page, the page stares back at me.

When I prepare to draw a letter on the rugged surface, the letter stares back at me.

When I find myself ridden with doubt and hesitation, the text shivers back at me.

Any act of writing is creative writing without being truly creative. Writing is both creative and absolutely not. To write is to engage in history, the pre-existing language and psychotechnologies of writing that were transmitted, learned and re-transmitted across generations. A step backwards, a glance backwards.

But a step forwards too. A contribution, an offer, an invitation, a gift. New words by means of old words, by old people for new people who instantly become old people in return. A rhyming line that looks back to the previous ones in order to carry the chant forward.

A bit like Dante.

Dante’s Divine Comedy was written in an innovative poetic form which the Italian poet called ‘terza rima’, the third rhyme. It consists of three-line stanzas, or tercets, where the second line of each tercet rhymes with the first and third lines of the next tercet. The rhyme scheme is typically ABA, BCB, CDC, and so on. Dante’s use of terza rima helps create a flowing and interconnected narrative, carrying the poetry forward. It provides a sense of continuity and progression, as the rhyme scheme links the stanzas together in a chain-like structure. This form adds a musical quality to the poem and contributes to its overall rhythm.

It is a gallop. A cavalcade. A torrent. And it looks both backwards and forwards. It recognizes where it comes from and where it’s going, grounding as well as innovating.

A bit like reading. A bit like writing. A bit like talking. It stares back at itself only to be staring into the future in return. It grows, but only because it was allowed to grow. It is grateful, but it is forward-looking, leaving everything behind to become something new, something more powerful and impactful.

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