Whatever happened to Poetry Wednesday?

Alas.  I have let this one go.  Must be summer, with the kids either surrounding me nonstop or being outside once the June rains finally stopped.  Whatever it was, here’s a late entry, one of my own pieces:

 

mt. lakes, my 16th year

 

light rainfall last night –

the pine railings and planks of the deck

dry sweetly under the july sunrise,

the scent of earthy moss and heavy

humus from the surrounding woods.

the fragrances humble each other

into compromise.

through waking eyes i see

the still lake beyond evergreens and

wandering branches of birch trees.

my beach towel, hung inside yesterday,

still carries the memory of chlorine and

suntan oil.  ten minutes before i must

bike to work, rake the short strip of sand,

skim the nearby pool,

ready the life buoys and rings, preparation

for the summer folk

with their coolers of sandwiches, sodas

and martinis: their daily baggage.

my house is still asleep,

but elsewhere children’s laughter echoes

from the distant shore,

early fishermen, perhaps, too eager

to care about scaring the trout to the

water’s murky depths.

i savor this brief solitude

in this moment of dawn.

i listen for my siblings, my parents,

and let the wind caress my face.

summer vacation is almost over.

Poetry Wednesday

It must be the three weeks of rain that have me in this dark mood, or perhaps it’s just my personality.  What do you think?  Discuss.

Today I’m posting poems by Jane Kenyon.   Kenyon, a resident of New Hampshire, was a brilliant poet who at times was overshadowed by her more famous husband Donald Hall.  She died of cancer in the ’90s, leaving behind a small but powerful body of work.  (And I personally prefer her writing to her husband’s, though his work is quite amazing as well.)

What I love about Kenyon’s poems are her rich images of nature, and the way she intertwines a personal mysticism with her surroundings.  As a New Englander who spent her fair share of summers in New Hampshire, I adore the familiar world Kenyon moves in.    Both of these poems come from her collection, Let Evening Come (Graywolf Press, 1990).

 

 

In the Grove:  The Poet at Ten

 

She lay on her back in the timothy

and gazed past the doddering

auburn heads of sumac.

 

A cloud — huge, calm,

and dignified — covered the sun

but did not, could not, put it out.

 

The light surged back again.

 

Nothing could rouse her then

from that joy so violent

it was hard to distinguish from pain.

 

 

Let Evening Come

 

Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn, moving

up the bales as the sun moves down.

 

Let the cricket take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles

and her yarn.  Let evening come.

 

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in long grass.  Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.

 

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down.  Let the shed

go black inside.  Let evening come.

 

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to the air in the lung

let evening come.

 

Let it come, as it will, and don’t

be afraid.  God does not leave us

comfortless, so let evening come.

After 3 weeks of rain….

What to do when fatigue drowns the day?

What to do when rain chokes inspiration?

What to do when the mundane becomes a hangman’s noose?

What to do when sleep is the pacifist?

What to do when television is the sublime soporific?

What’s left?

To rise, to begin,

again?

The plea, the hope.

That this time.  Yes.

This time.  Yes.

Poetry Wednesday, a day late

Yeah, well, it wouldn’t be me if it were on time, right?

This is a poem by Lucille Clifton.  It’s always inspired me, especially when I feel frozen or lost in my life.  

 

it was a dream

 

in which my greater self

rose up before me

accusing me of my life

with her extra finer

whirling in a gyre of rage

at what my days had come to.

what,

i pleaded with her, could i do,

oh what could i have done?

and she twisted her wild hair

and sparked her wild eyes

and screamed as long as

i could hear her.

This.  This.  This.

–from The Book of Light, 1993, Copper Canyon Press

Poetry Wednesday, No. 2

Ahh, nothing the destruction of a hard drive to keep one from blogging for a while!  While my old data may forever be lost, at least my machine is repaired, up and running.  While I ponder deep thoughts, here is a poem by Gary Snyder for your enjoyment:

How Poetry Comes To Me

It comes blundering over the

Boulders at night.  It stays

Frightened outside the

Range of my campfire

I go to meet it at the

Edge of the light

– from No Nature: New and Selected Poems, 1992

New feature — Poetry Wednesday

If you know me, you know my poet’s heart.  Inspired by other writers’ blogs, I’ve decided to christen Wednesdays to be Poetry Wednesdays (shut up, if you have a better name, send it to me!).  On this day each week I’ll post a favorite (oh, god, so many!)  by a new (or old, familiar) writer, or perhaps (gasp!) share one of my own.  

On this inaugural day, here’s one by a favorite poet, Naomi Shihab Nye.  For years I shared this one with my students…I always hoped it resonated with them as much as it did me.

 

Famous

 

The river is famous to the fish.

 

The loud voice is famous to the silence,

which knew it would inherit the earth

before anybody said so.

 

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds

watching him from the birdhouse.

 

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

 

The idea you carry close to your bosom

is famous to your bosom.

 

The boot is famous to the earth,

more famous than the dress shoe,

which is famous only to floors.

 

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it

and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

 

I want to be famous to shuffling men

who smile while crossing streets,

sticky children in grocery lines,

famous as the one who smiled back.

 

I want to be famous the way a pulley is famous,

or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,

but because it never forgot what it could do.

 

from Words Under Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye,

1995, Far Corner Books

 

Whenever I read this poem, I think of my mother, who continues to inspire me every day.   She has spent a lifetime with a quiet, strong voice, guiding and nurturing everyone around her, famous for the things she did reflexively — 20 years later, my high school friends still rave about her Friday night pizza open houses — and for the things she did courageously.

I remember the moment I learned that my mother was a person outside of her role as mother or wife.  God, I was so old!  How could I have never seen it before?  Looking back, it is not strange at all to me now that this moment of discovery was linked to poetry.  I don’t know what she has written, but my mother has always been a poet.  For her, for her fame, for that moment I saw clearly, I wrote this poem:

 

Salad Bowl

 

The sudden stranger chopping garlic

wears my mother’s soft body

and doesn’t pause in her cooking

to acknowledge the careless remark,

while I stare, frozen, slack-jawed,

red pen still marking scribbled

eighth grade compositions.

 

She is my mother

(I check to make sure)

this familiar figure who,

through giving birth to four children,

gave up another kind of life.  She

uses the torn, tomato-stained apron

to wipe the comment away from her hands

along with olive oil and garlic peels –

my mother’s hands, the ones

that taught me how to make meatballs,

plant marigolds.

 

I watch her move on to salad greens

while sipping ice-water, shrewdly

choosing crisp arugula over iceberg,

sprinkling parsley and oregano

as the writer does with verbs and nouns,

precisely, each selected 

for taste and clarity.  I wait for her

to finish the thought somehow but

her words hang in the air,

 

stirred by the overhead fan,

spinning in echoes over me, her daughter –

I’ve always wanted to write poetry, said my mother,

and every steel girder in my life’s framework

crumbles like the blue cheese

she has now tossed among

the red peppers and mushrooms,

its singularity lost forever when

mixed in a scarred wooden salad bowl.

(1994)

 

Remember:  you are famous to somebody.

And, Mom.  You do write poetry.  You always have.