Poetry Everyday
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Author:  Saffron [ Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Poetry Everyday

From WAMU (my local NPR station)

A Poem A Day: Portable, Peaceful And Perfect
by Alan Heathcock

December 26, 2011
I hadn't slept well, had to get my three kids to three different schools in three different cities, had deadlines piled on deadlines. I leaned my head against my bookcases and there, at eye-level, was a book of poetry by Mary Oliver.
I randomly opened to the poem "Egrets." Like magic, I was pushing through catbrier to the edge of a pond, where I watched "a spindle of bleached reeds" become egrets and "unruffled, sure, by the laws of their faith not logic, they opened their wings softly and stepped over every dark thing."
I closed the book, transformed, bolstered from the inside out.
From that day forward, each morning I read a poem. Even with a crazed daily docket, I can manage a minute or two for the words, reading while waiting for the bread to toast, sitting in a school parking lot. I've read poems at jury duty. At Jiffy Lube. Once, at a football tailgate, I read a poem in a Portajohn.
That's the practical greatness of a poem. They don't take much time, travel well, don't require any plug-ins or accessories. It's the ancient and perfect technology of words on a page that make you imagine beyond your means, make you feel the truths of lives that are not yours, and contemplate the life you have.
One morning James Dickey urged, "Lord, let me shake with purpose. Wild hope can always spring from tended strength." Another morning, Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort told me her little grandmother knows no pain, and "...believes that hunger — is food, nakedness — is a wealth, thirst — is water."
There were sweet and playful mornings, like when Matthew Dickman proposed, "I loved you the way my mouth loves teeth," and all day I smiled, imagining my lips and teeth embracing. There were reflective mornings, like when Reginald Dwayne Betts confessed, "I was never enough saint to leave sin with the devil, leave my lies unsaid."
The older I get, the more life passes in a harried traffic of cars and people and events. This world of shallow speed often sends me to sleep feeling I've been to battle. Battle at dance practice and the soccer game and the drive-thru window, battle to pick up the dry cleaning and get the kids new shoes before I have to attend parent-teachers conferences. Battles at work, battles in my relationships, battles with myself. If you're like me, you long for a bit of quiet, a morning in the chapel, a walk in the woods. If only I had the time to still my mind, take an accounting of myself, find my balance once again.
I'm not a poet. Not much of scholar. Just a guy looking for a little peace in the mad scramble that is life. For me, this peace is a poem. A poem each morning, to sustain me through my days with the faith of an egret stepping over every dark thing.

Author:  Saffron [ Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Poetry Everyday

Here is one of the poems mentioned by Alan Heathcock. I will also post the other three. What great poems!


by Valzhyna Mort

my little grandmother
knows no pain
she believes that
hunger—is food
nakedness—is a wealth
thirst—is water

her body like a vine wraps itself around her walking stick
her hair is bee's wings
she swallows the sun-speckles of pills
she calls Internet the telephone to America

her heart has has turned into a a rose—all you can do
is smell it
pressing yourself into her breasts
otherwise it's no good
it's a rose

her arms like stork's legs
red sticks
and I'm on my knees
and I howl as a wolf
at the white full moon of your skull
I am saying: this is not pain
just the embrace of a very strong god
one with an unshaven cheek that scratches when he kisses you

—Translated from Belarusian by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky

Author:  giselle [ Tue Dec 27, 2011 6:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Poetry Everyday

Great poem Saffron, really enjoyed it. Grandmothers are so .. symbolic. And I liked Alan Heathcock's item too ... he's absolutely right, poetry can fit into your life easily ... and I 100% agree, reading poetry at the Jiffy Lube is precisely what one should do :D

Author:  Saffron [ Tue Dec 27, 2011 8:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Poetry Everyday

Next poem:
Mary Oliver

The Egret
Every time
but one
the little fish
and the green
and spotted frogs
the egret’s bamboo legs
from the thin
and polished reeds
at the edge
of the silky world
of water.
in their last inch of time,
they see,
for an instant,
the white froth
of her shoulders,
and the white scrolls
of her belly,
and the white flame
of her head.
What more can you say
about such wild swimmers?
They were here,
they were silent,
they are gone, having tasted
sheer terror.
Therefore I have invented words
with which to stand back
on the weedy shore—
with which to say:
Look! Look!
What is this dark death
that opens
like a white door?

Author:  Saffron [ Tue Dec 27, 2011 10:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Poetry Everyday

Ooops, wrong Mary Oliver poem - here is the one mentioned in the NPR piece.


Mary Oliver

Where the path closed
down and over,
through the scumbled leaves,
fallen branches,
through the knotted catbrier,
I kept going. Finally
I could not
save my arms
from thorns; soon
the mosquitoes
smelled me, hot
and wounded, and came
wheeling and whining.
And that's how I came
to the edge of the pond:
black and empty
except for a spindle
of bleached reeds
at the far shore
which, as I looked,
wrinkled suddenly
into three egrets - - -
a shower
of white fire!
Even half-asleep they had
such faith in the world
that had made them - - -
tilting through the water,
unruffled, sure,
by the laws
of their faith not logic,
they opened their wings
softly and stepped
over every dark thing.

Author:  DWill [ Tue Dec 27, 2011 10:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Poetry Everyday

Understandable mistake, since she has both "Egrets" and "The Egret"! But now that I've read the second, it rings those chimes of memory from being in the car listening to the same broadcast.

Author:  giselle [ Wed Dec 28, 2011 3:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Poetry Everyday

Saffron wrote:

Mary Oliver

Where the path closed
down and over,
through the scumbled leaves,
fallen branches,
through the knotted catbrier,
I kept going...

I liked "Egrets" but I had to look up "scumbled" (def: to soften (the color or tone of a painted area) by overlaying parts with opaque or semiopaque color applied thinly and lightly with an almost dry brush). The actual meaning is much better in the poem than the provisional one I used when I first read it (something like "scattered about") and there might be some parallel between the leaves and the egrets in that the egrets open their white wings softly over 'every dark thing' (maybe this is a stretch?).

Here is another poem by Mary Oliver,

Cold Poem

Cold now.
Close to the edge. Almost
unbearable. Clouds
bunch up and boil down
from the north of the white bear.
This tree-splitting morning
I dream of his fat tracks,
the lifesaving suet.

I think of summer with its luminous fruit,
blossoms rounding to berries, leaves,
handfuls of grain.

Maybe what cold is, is the time
we measure the love we have always had, secretly,
for our own bones, the hard knife-edged love
for the warm river of the I, beyond all else; maybe

that is what it means the beauty
of the blue shark cruising toward the tumbling seals.

In the season of snow,
in the immeasurable cold,
we grow cruel but honest; we keep
ourselves alive,
if we can, taking one after another
the necessary bodies of others, the many
crushed red flowers.

Mary Oliver

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