The flowers fly – why so fast?
As I grow old, I wish that spring would linger.
What a pity that scenes of joy
Came not all in my youth and prime!
To set free the mind there must be wine,
To set forth one’s feelings nothing is better than poetry.
This thought you, T’ao Ch’ien, would understand,
But my life has come after your time.
I can tell the semester’s over because I have begun going on walks in the mornings again. Doing so has allowed me to make the following observation which I will pose as a question: Did you know it’s Spring?
The semester ended last week and one telltale sign of how busy I’ve been is how I’ve neglected to look up (or around for that matter) and really take in what’s been happening. I mean, I haven’t been completely oblivious: I have found hyacinths sneaking into my daily writing. Ani’s good about pointing things out. There’s also been an increase of birds in our neighborhood. Cardinals and robins kinda point themselves out 🙂
This week, I share two poems from The Penguin Book of Chinese Verse which I read last summer when we first landed here in Cincinnati. I like to start each season by reading the work of early Chinese and Japanese poets for their poetry’s ability to encompass not only the universe but nature, and not only nature meaning the outside world, but the nature of the heart.
While I may have neglected the official start of Spring, I like to think I’m up to date with the change of season in my daily life.
Bees – Lo Yin
Down in the plain, and up on the mountain-top,
All nature’s boundless glory is their prey.
But when they have sipped from a hundred flowers and made honey,
For whom is this toil, for whom this nectar?
I don’t revise much these days…except in the interest of a more passionate syntax
These words by Yeats were said later in his life to poet John Berryman on their one and only meeting. The idea in them is fascinating, the great poet having gotten to a point where the technical matters got down to phrasing, which is saying.
a more passionate saying
This is something I aspire to in my own writing, but also in my own reading. Weekly, I strive to find things that stop me for one reason or another.
In this week’s poem “Leave It To Me Blues” by Joel Oppenheimer, he goes about his particular saying through straightforward language and a lyric subtlety that disarms as much as surprises.
Leave It To Me Blues – Joel Oppenheimer
from the heart of a flower
a stalk emerges; in each fruit
there are seeds. we turn our
backs on each other so often,
we destroy any community of
interest. yet our hearts are
seeded with love and care sticks
out of our ears. but there is no
bridge unless it is the wind which
whistles our bare house, tearing
the slipcovers apart and constantly
removing the tablecloth covering
it (the table) like a shroud (the
shroud of what the table could mean,
if only we were hungry enough to
care), and we cut ourselves off
because we discovered each man is
an island, detached. man, the
mainland is flipped over the moon.
all i have to depend on is effort,
and the moon goes round and round
in the evening sky. my sons will
make it if they ever reach age,
but how to take care i dont know.
it doesn’t get better. on the other
hand, even with answers, where
would we be, out in the cold, with
an old torn blanket, and no one
around us to cry
*poem found in the anthology A Controversy of Poets.
The two year anniversary of the Influence is here and I must admit: it snuck up on me.
I had all these great ideas about what to do (party hats! balloons! poems recited inside of a cake!), but then life kinda kept happening.
As life happened, so did the Influence, though, which is the goal ultimately.
The life of a blog is like the life of a flag: as long as the wind keeps up, the colors keep flying.
This week’s poem “Lives of the Poets” by Kim Addonizio (fresh out of the latest issue of Poetry magazine) is apt for our little celebration.
When I started this blog, I was happy to have it become a reader’s blog, a place for me to share the poems that were rockin’ my world at the time. It has been a pleasure to see the readership of this blog grow. Thank you to each of you who drops by.
I hope to continue sharing the highlights of the life of this poet and that it may mean something to the life of the poet in you.
Lives of the Poets – Kim Addonizio
One stood among the violets
listening to a bird. One went to the toilet
and was struck by the moon. One felt hopeless
until a trumpet crash, and then lo,
he became a diamond. I have a shovel.
Can I turn it into a poem? On my stove
I’m boiling some milk thistle.
I hope it will turn into a winged thesis
before you stop reading. Look, I’m topless!
Listen: approaching hooves!
One drowned in a swimming pool.
One removed his shoes
and yearned off a bridge. One lives
with Alzheimer’s in a state facility, spittle
in his white beard. It
turns out words are no help.
But here I am with my shovel
digging like a fool
beside the spilth and splosh
of the ungirdled sea. I can’t stop.
The horses are coming, the thieves.
I still haven’t found lasting love.
I still want to hear viols
in the little beach hotel
that’s torn down and gone.
I want to see again the fish
schooling and glittering like a veil
where the waves shove
against the breakwater. Gone
is the girl in her white slip
testing the chill with one bare foot.
It’s too cold, but she goes in, so
Continuing on the theme of “can’t-believe-I-haven’t-shared-this-yet,” this week’s poem by Linda Gregg is one whose lessons I am still learning.
I know that I am still learning – which is to say I have much yet to learn (and let this always be so) – because I found notes!
In my notes on this poem from a journal circa 2009, I wrote that what moves me is Gregg’s ability to sneak in a bit of the metaphysical into a poem rich with narrative detail. It does so in the following specific lines:
Love is not less because of the spirit. Delight does not make the heart childish…
Let the spirit marry the heart…
These three lines – free of concrete description – hold the philosophical heart of the poem.
Alone, they make an small abstract poem.
Alongside the rest of the poem, these lines “sparkle easily.”
Glistening – Linda Gregg
As I pull the bucket from the crude well,
the water changes from dark to a light
more silver than the sun. When I pour it
over my body that is standing in the dust
by the oleander bush, it sparkles easily
in the sunlight with an earnestness like
the spirit close up. The water magnifies
the sun all along the length of it.
Love is not less because of the spirit.
Delight does not make the heart childish.
We thought the blood thinned, our weight
lessened, that our substance was reduced
by simple happiness. The oleander is thick
with leaves and flowers because of spilled
water. Let the spirit marry the heart.
When I return naked to the stone porch,
there is no one to see me glistening.
But I look at the almond tree with its husks
cracking open in the heat. I look down
the whole mountain to the sea. Goats bleating
faintly and sometimes bells. I stand there
a long time with the sun and the quiet,
the earth moving slowly as I dry in the light.