Poets Live On Their Senses

campfire

“I suppose what most people associate with poetry is soul-searching and fiercely held emotions.  We expect the poet to be a monger of intensity, to pain for us, to reach into the campfire so that we can linger in the woods and watch without burning ourselves or grubbying up our clothes.  Then, even if we don’t feel the fire, we can see the poet’s face illuminated by light, hear her flushed chatter, the blazing wood crackle, and imagine well enough what the fire feels like from our safe remove.  Though we can’t live at red alert from day to day, we expect the poet to, on our behalf, and to share that intensity with us when we’re in the right mood.  And if we become frightened or bored, we can simply put the poem back on the shelf.  Really, we are asking the poet to live an extravagantly emotional life for us, so we can add her experiences to our own.

 

Because poets feel what we’re afraid to feel, venture where we’re reluctant to go, we learn from their journeys without taking the same dramatic risks.  We cherish the insights that poets discover: we’d love to relish the moment and feel rampant amazement as the seasons unfold.  We yearn to explore the subtleties, paradoxes, and edges of emotion.  We long to see the human condition reveal itself with spellbinding clarity. Think of all the lessons to be learned from deep rapture, danger, tumult, romance, intuition.  But it’s far too exhausting to live like this on a daily basis, so we ask artists to feel and explore on our behalf.  Daring to take intellectual and emotional chances, poets live on their senses.  In promoting a fight of his, a boxer once said: “I’m in the hurt business.”  In a different way, poets are too.

 

And yet, through their eyes—perhaps because they risk so much—we discover breathtaking views of the human pageant.  Borrowing the lens of a poet’s sensibility, we see the world in a richer way—more familiar than we thought, and stranger than we knew, a world laced with wonder.  Sometimes we need to be taught how and where to seek wonder, but it’s always there, waiting, full of mystery and magic.  Much of my own duty as a poet is the open those doors of vision, shine light into those dark corners of existence, and search for fountains of innocence.

 

The poet Heinrich Heine once said:  “Life is the best teacher, but the tuition is high.”  So true.  That’s why it’s important to find time for poetry.  Poetry is an education in life.  It’s also an act of deep play.”

 

Diane Ackerman, Deep Play

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Spirals Up A Mountain

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The Unfurling

umbrella

How fragile and tender

                               that little girl yearning

Just wanting to be loved and to love.

Building beautiful cities inside her

                              with moats and high towers

Walled gardens behind sentinel gates.

Ferrying her love

                             clenched fist

Around a hyacinth seed,

Protecting tender shoots

                              from ruthless boots

And only letting so much outside.

 

But now!  An inner unfurling!

The gates creaking open!

Her love spreading boundless and free.

 

Her umbrella of love is ever expanding–

Soon it will shelter the world.

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Recipe for a Sour Day

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Walk to the lake-

preferably at dusk, the gray cashmere air soft upon your cheeks.

Wear polka dot shiny rain boots

and carry a furled umbrella, twirling it like a baton.

Savagely stomp through every puddle you find,

unless there’s a small child or dog near by.

A man stands motionless at one end of the lake…

stop to see that he’s staring at the clouds reflected

in the shiny still mirror of the lake.

Hear the squelchy humor of the ducks

busy beaking the buttery mud

and up ahead….in the soft kind light,

marvel at the whirring wings of a flock as they settle upon the grass

like a stuttering old movie projector as it shows its last reel.

Discover the last great truth of the day….

it’s impossible to be unhappy,

while watching a duck waddle from behind.

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Holding a Book in Your Hand

Eyeglasses on Open Book

Someone told me the other day that they believed in dating several people at once for a while and taking lots of time to get to know each one, before deciding which one was compatible and suitable for an exclusive committed romantic relationship.  Their thought was that it made more sense to know about compatibility, rather than spending 4 or 5 months in a relationship before splitting up because of incompatibility issues.  They saw it as a waste of 4 or 5 months… jumping into a relationship so quickly after several dates just because sparks were flying.

I see it differently.  I have been in several wonderful relationships over the years, and each one started exactly the same way…we met, liked each other, went on a few dates, sparks were flying, and we started a relationship, concentrating on just each other. We took the leap of faith and each time were rewarded by the depth and pleasure of learning about each other and how we were together as a couple. There’s nothing like being so INTO each other…and that’s almost impossible to achieve when one is dating more than one person.  How is it possible to really get to know on a very deep level….several people at the same time?

Being in the dating world is like being in a large bookstore.  We all have our own tastes and qualities that we are looking for…so you might be browsing the travel section and I might be in the Fiction section.  But imagine being in the Fiction section…with all those titles to choose from…each one a very unique person to date. You grab 7 or 8 titles that look interesting and study the book jackets… and 4 really spark your interest. You scan the title page and read the first page of each one…but you can’t really juggle all 4 very easily.  Do you skim here and there from each one?  A page here, a paragraph there. Back and forth. One book to another book to another. Are you really getting to know any of these books in any great detail?  Wouldn’t the other books be a constant distraction? How do you keep track which page is from which book? Do you keep on picking out more books?

Wouldn’t it be better to choose the most appealing book, and settle into that cozy leather chair for a delightful read? Savoring the beautifully written passages, charmed by the whimsical illustrations, smiling as you turn each page.Reading it cover to cover. It might even end up being a book you want to read forever, discovering new things every time you open it up.  But the only way to know that is to set the other books aside for a time, while you explore the world of that one very special book in your hand, a world you never knew existed until that moment when you chose not to skim….but to truly read.

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His Mind Was In Motion

gear

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A Boy and His Dogs

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Have you read Where The Red Fern Grows?

My 4th grade teacher, Mr, Bringolf read it to us in class and I loved it so much I asked for the book for Christmas.  It still has a place of honor on my bookshelf.  It’s funny how a book about a boy and his dogs in the Ozarks during the depression had such great appeal to a girl living in bland white bread suburbia….but the book touched me on so many levels.  I think its one of the greatest love stories ever written, and the very sad ending just added to the depth. It’s so beautifully written, and even at 10 I could recognize how certain words strung together were beautiful in themselves, and the story is about such a simple pure love….the boy for his dogs, the dogs for their boy, and the love the dogs share for each other.
We had a family dog, growing up….our beloved Snoopy, a shaggy black and white mutt.  He was a medium size dog, but considered himself one of us kids and also thought that our laps were the perfect place for him to drape himself.  I have a great picture of my younger brother David, sitting in a recliner chair and overwhelmed by this big grinning creature.  He was so loving and friendly and goofy and was loved just as much right back.
I know families that have dogs that aren’t so well loved…the dogs play a small role and while fed and watered, certainly don’t receive the affection they deserve.  Have you seen that? The dogs are relegated to a mat off in the corner, or spend their days in the garage. I am always so sad for those dogs; you can always see the yearning in their eyes. I don’t understand why you would even have a dog, unless it became a big part of your family.  Why would you not want such love?
In this big ol world, love manifests itself in so many different ways……a boy and his dogs, a girl and her cat, a man and his gerbil, a woman in New Jersey who at this very moment is sipping a tall mocha latte double whip and staring lovingly towards her walk-in closet filled with shoes….
Love is grand….no matter how we find it…and in that pure spirit I wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day.
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