vigilant instead of receptive

When I begin work on a script I go from the beginning and distill each scene down to its essence. And then I try to name each scene with a word or two or more. It’s almost as if I’m trying to write a poem for each scene; articulating the inchoate, indescribable, unknowable. So, I go through the script and I go through and through it, with my mind and without it. Much the same way as when I’m reading a poem. And then I put the script down when the play or movie begins. Good acting, like a good poem, remains mysterious to me. I couldn’t tell you what it means, but I know it.

I used to try so hard to understand a poem. I was being vigilant instead of receptive. If the poem is saying the unsayable, I don’t need to articulate it back to myself with words. The poet has done that for me. If poems are about emotions, then that is the language I need to use when I’m reading them. Poetry has helped me become more versed, so to speak, in the language of emotion.

- Actress Lili Taylor, as part of Poetry Magazine's consistently enjoyable "The View From Here" series, in the October 2011 issue. You can read her whole essay here.

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