Silent Poetry

Fridays are for Poetry

"Genuine poetry can communicate before it can be understood."
                                --- T.S. Eliot

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I am a reader of poetry.  Always have been.  I collect poems.  I seek out new poets.  I keep my poetry books on a special shelf in my library.  They are the words I go to when there are no words.

But when I tell other people that, they tend to look at me funny.  Like . . . poetry?  Really?  And so I don't always tell people.

For me, though, there is power in poetry.  Big magic.  Even before we understand it.  

ARS POETICA #100: I BELIEVE
by Elizabeth Alexander
 
Poetry, I tell my students,
is idiosyncratic. Poetry
is where we are ourselves
(though Sterling Brown said
“Every ‘I’ is a dramatic ‘I'”),
digging in the clam flats
for the shell that snaps,
emptying the proverbial pocketbook.
Poetry is what you find
in the dirt in the corner,
overhear on the bus, God
in the details, the only way
to get from here to there.
Poetry (and now my voice is rising)
is not all love, love, love,
and I’m sorry the dog died.
Poetry (here I hear myself loudest)
is the human voice,
and are we not of interest to each other?
 
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Learn more about the poet Elizabeth Alexander and her work here.
 
And remember, next Thursday - April 26, is Poem in Your Pocket day.  Carry a poem in YOUR pocket that day.  Share it with someone else.  And maybe join me in posting it on your blog.
 
 

Fridays are for Poetry

"We’re only here for a short while. And I think it’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention."
                                                                    ---Mark Strand

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One of the things I like most about poetry is its ability to translate that simple paying attention to daily life . . . into language.  For me, poetry is really is about this translation.  
Poetry makes the personal . . . universal.  
The mundane . . . meaningful.  
The traumatic . . . divine.

I have always loved the poetry of Nikki Giovanni.  She writes of the most elemental human longings and concerns . . . and makes them fresh, new, relatable.  For all of us.  She is a master of translation.  

Here is one of my favorites.

CHOICES
by Nikki Giovanni

if i can’t do
what i want to do
then my job is to not
do what i don’t want
to do

it’s not the same thing
but it’s the best i can
do

if i can’t have
what i want … then
my job is to want
what i’ve got
and be satisfied
that at least there
is something more to want

since i can’t go
where i need
to go … then i must … go
where the signs point
through always understanding
parallel movement
isn’t lateral

when i can’t express
what i really feel
i practice feeling
what i can express
and none of it is equal

i know
but that’s why mankind
alone among the animals
learns to cry

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Click here to read more about Nikki Giovanni and sample her poetry.
Remember, April is National Poetry Month.  Join me here each Friday in April for more poetry.


Fridays Are For Poetry

"Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words."
                                                                                    --- Robert Frost

In my corner of the world, April is usually a dreary month.  I know the calendar says it's spring, and I know there are blooms happening in other parts of the country (because I've seen your pictures) . . . but here in Michigan, we remain winter-weary.   Sure.  We've got robins.  And we've had snowdrops and crocus.  Daffodils are beginning to pop up; even some early tulips.  But those are just little teases of what will come, eventually.  Right now there is snow on the ground again.  And it is cold.  And grey.  And not very spring-like at all.

Not much to love about April, really.  Not here, at least.  It's a month that seems like it should be something that it's just not.

So I'm particularly pleased that April brings me something else to celebrate (while I wait for those bursting buds and blue sky blooms and . . . heck, temperatures above the freezing mark) . . . 

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Yes!  April is National Poetry Month -- a month set aside to acknowledge and celebrate poetry's importance in our culture and our lives.  There are many goals of National Poetry Month (highlighting the legacy and contributions of poets, supporting the teaching of poetry, and encouraging the distribution and publication of poetry books, for example), but I can most easily embrace the goal of encouraging the reading of poems.

Each Friday during April, I'll be writing a little bit about poetry -- and then I'll share a favorite poem with you.  I hope maybe you'll join in, too.  Especially on Poem in Your Pocket Day (which is April 26 this year). 

May poetry bloom all month long (and maybe some flowers, too).

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Love After Love
by Derek Walcott
 
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
 
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
 
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
 
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Learn about Derek Walcott and sample more of his poetry here.

A Silent Poetry Reading

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, February 2 was Silent Poetry Day in blog-land.  Various bloggers would post their favorite poems, and it was all quite lovely.  It doesn't seem to be A Thing any longer, but the date sticks in my head.  

So here is a poem for you.  Because it's a Friday.  And still winter.  And February 2 used to be Silent Poetry Day.  

And because we can all use more poetry in our lives, y'know?

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This Much I Do Remember
Billy Collins

It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,

and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.

All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of your shoulders

that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the ways stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.

Then all the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row, 
giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from the millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.

Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kindgom
that we pace through every day.

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I hope you find some poetry in your life today!


On Frolicking, Snow, and a Poem

We had our first snow yesterday.  Not much.  But enough to cause some roadway havoc.

I always love the first few snows of the season . . . but the dogs?  Oh, they REVEL in it!  They race around the yard, frolicking.  They rub their faces in the snow and dig and roll and chase each other.  It is Pure Dog Joy!

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Watching them play in the snow always makes me think of this perfect poem by Mary Oliver, from her book Dog Songs.

The Storm (Bear)
    --- by Mary Oliver

Now through the white orchard my little dog
    romps, breaking the new snow
    with wild feet.
Running here running there, excited,
    hardly able to stop, he leaps, he spins,
until the white snow is written upon
    in large, exuberant letters,
a long sentence, expressing
    the pleasures of the body in this world.

Oh, I could not have said it better
    myself.

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Have a wonderful weekend!


Practicing Gratitude: Gifting with a Side of Poetry

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It's that time of year when knitters (and makers) everywhere get really serious about creating handmade gifts for people they care about.  

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(Yes.  That's a sock.  But don't get excited about it.  I finished it over a year ago, and haven't even cast on for its mate.  This post just needed a sock picture, so I dug it out of the drawer for just long enough to snap a photo.)  (It's back in the drawer now.)

I'm not knitting-for-Christmas this year, myself (although I do have one gift recipient who desperately needs a hat, so there is that), but I thought I would share this gratitude-related poem about receiving the gift of socks to inspire all of you gift-knitters and gift-makers out there.

Ode to My Socks
         by Pablo Neruda

Maru Mori brought me
a pair
of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder’s hands,
two socks as soft
as rabbits.
I slipped my feet
into them
as though into
two
cases
knitted
with threads of
twilight
and goatskin.
Violent socks,
my feet were
two fish made
of wool,
two long sharks
sea-blue, shot
through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons:
my feet
were honored
in this way
by
these
heavenly
socks.
They were
so handsome
for the first time
my feet seemed to me
unacceptable
like two decrepit
firemen, firemen
unworthy
of that woven
fire,
of those glowing
socks.

Nevertheless
I resisted
the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere
as schoolboys
keep
fireflies,
as learned men
collect
sacred texts,
I resisted
the mad impulse
to put them
into a golden
cage
and each day give them
birdseed
and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers
in the jungle who hand
over the very rare
green deer
to the spit
and eat it
with remorse,
I stretched out
my feet
and pulled on
the magnificent
socks
and then my shoes.

The moral
of my ode is this:
beauty is twice
beauty
and what is good is doubly
good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool
in winter.

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Happy gift knitting, my friends.  And if you'd like to read other knitting tales today, hop on over to Kat's for Unraveled Wednesday.


Sundays are for Poetry

26/30

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Could Have
by Wisława Szymborska

It could have happened.
It had to happen.
It happened earlier.  Later.
Nearer.  Farther off.
It happened, but not to you.

You were saved because you were the first.
You were saved because you were the last.
Alone.  With others.
On the right.  The left.
Because it was raining.  Because of the shade.
Because the day was sunny.

You were in luck -- there was a forest.
You were in luck -- there were no trees.
You were in luck --  a rake, a hook, a beam, a brake,
a jamb, a turn, a quarter inch, an instant.
You were in luck -- just then a straw went floating by.

As a result, although, despite.
What would have happened if a hand, a foot,
within an inch, a hairsbreadth from
an unfortunate coincidence.

So you're here?  Still dizzy from another dodge, close shave, reprieve?
One hole in the net and you slipped through?
I couldn't be more shocked or speechless.
Listen,
how your heart pounds inside me.


Sundays are for Poetry

19/30

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Wild Geese
    by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting - 
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


Sundays are for Poetry

5/30

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The Peace of Wild Things
                        by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, 
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.  For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.