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Posts Tagged ‘Poetry’

Summer flowers:

Summer bouquet

And Mary Oliver’s Winter Hours:

Just a day or two after I finished reading this unseasonal book, my favorite person in the world brought home the citrus-colored bouquet “just because,” and I felt so very lucky to have two opposite seasons collide so beautifully in my world.

Oliver’s collection of prose, prose poems, and poems is worth reading, if only for the final and title essay, which is wide-ranging in subject and profound. In it the poet says:

Now I think there is only one subject worth my attention and that is the recognition of the spiritual side of the world and, within this recognition, the condition of my own spiritual state. I am not talking about having faith necessarily, although one hopes to. What I mean by spirituality is not theology but attitude….

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves–we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny.

Breathtaking, as is most of the rest of the collection. I will admit, however, that I skipped one entire essay. “Swoon” was ostensibly all about spiders, and when I got to the part that detailed a spider slowly devouring a cricket, I started flipping pages. I was trying to eat my lunch after all. This reveals, I suppose, the difference between the poet who has the patience and honesty to witness the reality of nature… and me. There are some things I’d rather not know.

But Mary Oliver is braver than most. And wise. Unblinking. Willing to see. Really see. Embracing. This is why we need her. And why her winter writing can stun and illuminate even in the summer hours.

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Welcome

I’m back from a quiet, introspective summer interlude. I didn’t exactly mean to take a vacation from blogging, but books, a much-needed rest, and time shared with family and friends have filled our days.

I’ve been reading, for example, Wendell Berry’s collection, Given:

The exquisite poem “How to Be a Poet (to remind myself)” is included in this book. In it Berry says:

There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
I think the poet speaks wisdom.

Cut fruit

Certain concepts, no doubt influenced by my reading, are on my mind this summer: respect for life, natural rhythms, found beauty, ritual…. I want to live with intention, but also freedom; with words, but also people; with simplicity, but also richness. I want my home, my life, my interaction with others, this blog, to be a sacred space.

What are you thinking of this summer?

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Nine Gates

After several months of intermittent reading and contemplation, I finally finished Jane Hirshfield‘s exquisite collection of essays about poetry-writing. I found the closing essay, “Writing and the Threshold Life” particularly profound, or at least, particularly meaningful to me at this point in time. In it, Hirshfield proposes that the writer must enter into liminality–a threshold between individuality and community, a constant state of inbetweenness, and a space outside of conventional relationship to language and society.

In Hirshfield’s threshold life, the writer becomes transparent, transient, empty of self, in such a way that she is opened to a deeper awareness of others. In this threshold connectedness, the writer identifies with all people, all things, and cannot help but speak on their behalf.

For the writer to write at all, he or she must cultivate a heart that opens in tenderness to all things.
– Jane Hirshfield, from “Writing and the Threshold Life,” Nine Gates, p. 211

This concept is further explored in Hirshfield’s poem, “Late Prayer.” Hirshfield says, “The poem is called a prayer because in writing it I was asking, during a time of difficulty, for such a mind and heart…. A writer cannot identify only with the rabbit, or with the hawk—standing squarely in the threshold, one must include both. A ruby is no more valuable than a nail; the sound of one in a shaken metal bucket is no different from the other. Both will be needed, if we want to include the world in our words. It is up to the writer to recognize everything that happens to her as gift, to love each thing that comes under the eye’s contemplation, inner or outer.”

According to Hirshfield, this idea of liminality is woven into the work and/or lives of writers such as Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Galway Kinnell, Pablo Neruda, ancient Japanese poet Ono no Komachi, and Henry David Thoreau. Of Thoreau’s journey to and from the threshold and Walden, she says this :

Entering the threshold is not a matter of going into literal woods, though that may help. It is a matter of mind, of leaving the trail of convention and norm, whether in the city or the wild.
– Jane Hirshfield, from “Writing and the Threshold Life,” Nine Gates, p. 221

Hirshfield is careful to differentiate between the writer’s life of liminality and a romanticized view of those forced to the fringes of society by unchosen paths such as poverty or mental illness. The life of liminality, she concludes, is one of reverence.

To speak, and to write, is to assert who we are, what we think. The necessary other side is to surrender these things—to stand humbled and stunned and silent before the wild and inexplicable beauties and mysteries of being.
– Jane Hirshfield, from “Writing and the Threshold Life,” Nine Gates, p. 221

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A family of ducks

“In your light, I learn to love. In your beauty, how to make poems.” – Rumi

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A Jane Hirshfield Poem

Oriental Poppy

In a Room with Five People, Six Griefs

In a room with five people, six griefs.

Some you will hear of, some not.

Let the room hold them, their fears, their anger.

Let there be walls and windows, a ceiling.

A door through which time

changer of everything

can enter.

Jane Hirshfield, from After

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after the wind storm

Theodore Roethke:

“Mid-country Blow”

All night and all day the wind roared in the trees,
Until I could think there were waves rolling as high as my bedroom floor;
When I stood at the window, an elm bough swept to my knees;
The blue spruce lashed like a surf at the door.

The second dawn I would not have believed:
The oak stood with each leaf stiff as a bell.
When I looked at the altered scene, my eye was undeceived,
But my ear still kept the sound of the sea like a shell.

after the wind storm

after the wind storm

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Roses

Happy Valentine’s Day, Blissful readers!

Today, I want to share with you a few blogs I’m loving right now:

Nordljus
Keiko’s stunning photography captures the beauty of food, destinations, and everyday objects. I can only dream of taking photos like these. (Be sure to click on the thumbnails on the left sidebar on Keiko’s blog to see more photos.)

My Inner Edge
I discovered this blog just recently. With a photo and a daily offering from poets like Galway Kinnell and Mary Oliver or, alternately, a meditative quote, My Inner Edge soothes and nourishes my soul.

Colors of the Garden
For me, visiting Kerri’s blog is like an armchair excursion to the countryside via photos of a lush garden and adorable kitties.

The Artful Parent
The idea of family life that celebrates art is so inspiring to me. The Artful Parent reminds me that creating art is a simple, natural, and joyful act.

The Style Files
I’m interested in living spaces that are both functional and artful, and this Netherlands-based blog is a collection of charming ideas for interiors.

Enjoy!

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“My Poet”

Poetry July/August 2007

It’s a gray winter day, and I’m catching up on my reading, which includes five or six back issues of Poetry. In the July/August 2007 issue, I came across a short story titled “My Poet” by Naeem Murr. It made me laugh so much with its hilarious but loosely accurate characterizations of poets and fiction writers:

We fiction writers are a different breed from poets–alert, happy, optimistic. If you want to find the fiction writer in a crowd, just pretend to throw a stick. He’ll be the one who looks around.

Or perhaps like the narrator of this story, you have a poet of your own. If so, you might relate to this sentiment:

Loving my Poet as I do, though, I try hard to understand what a poet is. The first clue lies in the fact that my Poet–every poet–is an insomniac.

Read for summery laughs on a gray winter day.

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If I were a poet, I would go to Block Island this spring just to hear Mary Oliver. I really would.

Protective of the privacy necessary to her creative process, Oliver rarely gives readings, but she will be participating in the April 3 – May 4, 2008, Block Island Poetry Project. Also in the spring, Beacon Press will publish a collection of new Oliver poems. I may not be going to Block Island, but you know I’ll be reading Red Bird.

Red Bird by Mary Oliver

I first fell in love with Oliver’s poetry when I read “Wild Geese” with its stunning opening lines:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

Read the full poem here.

The clarity, fragility, and internal music of Oliver’s lines took my breath away. I own most of her collections now, and hers are the poems to which I return for soul-nourishment and centering. Her earlier poems worked around a fiery wound toward the reconciliation offered in poems like “Wild Geese.” I think that early fire has burned down now into a rare and quiet peace raised in her more recent work. I’m interested to see what Oliver does in Red Bird.

To learn more about my favorite poet, visit the following pages:

Poetry Foundation Bio

Academy of American Poets Bio

L.A. Times review of Oliver’s most recent work, Our World (photographs by Oliver’s late partner, Molly Malone Cook; text by Mary Oliver)

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There isn’t much time for anything right now, but here are a couple of gems from Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, which I finished reading recently:

 

All important words, all the words marked for grandeur by a poet, are keys to the universe, to the dual universe of the Cosmos and the depths of the human spirit.

The great function of poetry is to give us back the situations of our dreams. The house we were born in is more than an embodiment of home, it is also an embodiment of dreams. Each of its nooks and corners was a resting-place for daydreaming…. The house, the bedroom, the garret in which we were alone, furnished the framework for an interminable dream, one that poetry alone, through the creation of a poetic work, could succeed in achieving completely…. It is on the plane of the daydream and not on that of facts that childhood remains alive and poetically useful within us. Through this permanent childhood, we maintain the poetry of the past. To inhabit oneirically the house we were born in means more than to inhabit it in memory; it means living in this house that is gone, the way we used to dream in it.

In the forward, John R. Silgoe writes, “Ostensibly modest in compass, an inquiry focused on the house, its interior places, and its outdoor context, The Poetics of Space resonates deeply, vibrating at the edges of imagination, exploring the recesses of the psyche, the hallways of the mind. In the house Bachelard discovers a metaphor of humanness.”

I’ll admit that I found Bachelard somewhat challenging. He’s unapologetically abstract and long-winded, but at the same time, The Poetics of Space is undeniably dreamy and even a bit magical. In the days since I finished reading it, I’ve found myself pondering the spaces I know and remember and discovering entire rooms of imaginative meaning and possibility. If you’re looking for a book to tickle your imagination and are willing to read slowly and thoughtfully, as Bachelard requires, I recommend it.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, in the space we call home (where the rest of us are quite busy, I might add), this is the scene:

Sprawled about

Christmas tree & a sleepy fuzzy

On a chilly night

It’s as though the cats have decided to semi-hibernate through the winter, and I do not blame them. I want to grab a book, curl up in a blanket, and join them.

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