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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Wild and Precious

A very large and troubling part of my life is my attitude towards poetry these days.  My poems have been in some of the best literary magazines in the country, and yet I haven't had a desire to write poems in many years.  It hasn't anything to do with my forays into fiction and nonfiction; it has something to do with the importance of poetry in the world.  Some of it is the acceptance that perhaps I have said all I need to say in that genre.  Being a poet is like herding a bunch of ornery butterflies:  they will do what they will, perhaps disappear for a long time, don't live too long anyways, so what is the point of butterfly herding.  Perhaps the answer might be, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."  I haven't discounted that poetry will feel like a good idea to me sometime, either.

Still, I like to read poetry, perhaps even more so, though I am frankly tired of Billy Collins being the sole person posted on my little Facebook world.  I am sorry to say this,( he was a very nice guy when I met him at SJSU and he has a few really great poems), but I find a lot of his poems to be snarky and silly.  I wonder how they will stand up to the test of time, eventually.  But what do I know?  Mazeltov to the guy for being able to make his living solely as a poet!  Plus he really WAS nice when I met him.

I have a pantheon of poets I read over and over:  Denise Levertov, Ruth Stone, Pablo Neruda, Li Young Li, Mary Oliver, Galway Kinnell, Lucille Clifton (whom I knew quite well in my personal life), Rumi (sometimes--at some point all of Rumi's poems blend together into one big rose-scented, door-opening, pomegranate-juicy poem, though certainly the language is beautiful and the connection to spirit also).

I took my first real walk in the woods today, to my meditation spot (there is a lot of property here, so some of it is really the woods with a capital "W".  The meditation spot has two things:  a green plastic lawn chair, and a glossy green holly tree, with very sharp thorns.  No matter where I live, I always have such a spot.  Here it is on a little bluff that overlooks Gold Gulch Creek.  I feel tucked away as if in a green pocket, with a wonderful view of the creek and a small cascade.  The resident crow called out, as it always does:  sometimes it has gifted me with a feather, but not often.  As I sat, I thought of this poem by Mary Oliver:

The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-- the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Well, Thistle just came in the door, grouchy from school, and so I  must attend to her.