Thursday, January 25, 2007

Why I love poetry

The current prompt over at Poetry Thursday was to write 153 words or less about why you love poetry, and I have been mulling this over all week. I can tell you that I have loved poetry for a long time; since college at least. I won't say JUST how long that is... everyone is entitled to a few secrets :-) but poetry and I have been more or less constant companions for years. I can talk about my favorite poets and explore themes and patterns that bring cohesion to a list which may seem disjointed upon first reading. But getting to the why is a greater challenge.

The poets I have loved: Mary Oliver, of course. Robinson Jeffers. H.D., especially Trilogy. Janet Beeler, now Janet Beeler Shaw of American Girls fame, who published one exquisite volume called Dowry in the late 70's. William Blake. Madeleine L'Engle. Wonderful jillypoet, whose blog led me to Poetry Thursday. And so many of the PTers I have discovered.

An odd list, I know. Different styles. Different periods. The more I think about it, though, I see some commonalities: An abiding sense of the spiritual. A willingness to engage the tough questions - why are we here? what does it mean to be human? where do we fit in the order of the universe? An appreciation of the natural world. A certain lyricism in choice of language.

So, in 153 words or less: Poetry, for me, is a mirror in which to view the everyday sacred. Those astonishing and incomprehensibly beautiful moments when our temporal and spiritual worlds intersect create such a brilliance - I am afraid to look for fear I will be blinded. Through poetry they become approachable. Living life, experiencing life fully, is intense. Poetry gives me a way to sit in the room with that intensity, opening myself to it - the piercing joys, the crumbling sorrows - knowing that others have traveled this path, knowing that the moments I treasure can be revisited. I create scrapbooks of images to share with family and friends, but poetry weaves a scrapbook of words, a written trail of the history of my heart.

In closing, I share with you a poem-in-progress. Lately I have been caught in that bittersweet conundrum that every parent knows too well - each step towards independence is also a step away. I can barely see the nursling-who-was in the bright and accomplished little person who lives in my house, and I am at once full of pride and rather melancholy. This poem is an attempt to capture that feeling. I would love some feedback on it. And, if you are a PTer, I can't wait to hear why you love poetry too.

Untitled, so far

Nothing prepares you for the fatigue
of new parenthood.

"Don't mind if I do," Exhaustion says
and moves right in.
Eats the best kippers
Uses the last clean towels
Makes itself at home in
the very marrow of your bones.

Oh, my little one:
those early days,
stupid with love and
cleaved by joy,
terrifying in its ferocity.
Defenseless, I was.
I would have given six right arms
for one night's sleep.

Those early days:
Could I have guessed
that I would mourn their passing?
Could I have known that I would crave
the dark and holy music of your breath?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Water Lily

This week's prompt at Poetry Thursday was really more of a game. The idea was to post one line from a work of your own, and then use a line (or lines) from someone else to create a new poem. I found this to be one of the most fun experiences I have had in writing. There were so many great lines from which to choose, and yet two spoke to me immediately and I knew they were destined to be joined. The two lines I used were:

gravity wraps me in greedy arms from DebR's poem Born to Fly and

resting in a clean white bowl from Megan's lovely haiku

I do have a question for you Poetry Thursday-ers... what would you do about citations for a poem such as this which clearly alludes to John Keats but only quotes three words?

Any other comments are welcome as well. I am so excited to read everyone's offerings this week.

Water Lily

I seek a pool of silence
in which to be
still and calm. But
gravity wraps me in greedy arms
of sound. The cacophony of daily
life accosts me:
the hungry cat's squall,
the sick child's cough,
the brake shoe's shriek.
The din scalds my throat,
more potent than Cuervo and
dryer than dust.

In my dream, I see
a room devoid of color. Pristine
walls glow with perfect luminescence.
In my dream, I am
a water lily.
Resting in a clean white bowl,
I slip beneath the surface.
Not a ripple do I make.
For one immaculate moment,
I cease

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Uncle Frank: In Memoriam (with apologies to Robinson Jeffers and William Shakespeare)

I admired the beauty while I was human, now I am part of the beauty...
-Robinson Jeffers, Inscription for a Gravestone, 1938

You are part of the beauty now.
Dendrites and mitochondria transmogrified
into something rich and strange:
Ore in the smelter
A new leaf on a bay tree in Anguilla
The dew that feeds an aphid in the grass.

What was it like, this final and most important stepping-off
into the great and wild unknown?
Did you catch your breath with joy
as one does at the crest of a roller-coaster,
laughing before the plunge,
or did you close your eyes gratefully,
enjoying the softness of your bed in
those last sweet moments before sleep?

No matter now. You
have gone where we all must go.
Everything tends towards ruin,
the poet tells us.
Entropy is the natural order of the universe,
and we should love the symmetry of this chaos.
Here is my subversive, dark secret:
I love the pattern in a Fibonacci spiral,
love the rhythmic pulse of the sunset,
love the beauty in the memory of your life,
love you.