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?


GreenishLady said...

Oh, the "Aaaah" from my heart to that poem. How beautiful! My 'baby' will be 21 this year, but I remember, I remember. Thank you.

Dana said...

Thank you for sharing this. Do you mind if Liz and I quote you sometime over at Poetry Thursday? We are collecting a number of quotes from participants to use on the site.