In a letter to Louis Untermeyer, Frost wrote:
A poem…begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion finds the thought and the thought finds the words.
I discovered poetry late in life and I wrote about how it saved my sanity:
As I roamed the library, carrying the latest child in the wrap, bargaining with the gods of sleep to grant my wish so I could sit for a moment, a book caught my eye. Its spine stood out and so did its title. I picked it off the shelf and turned to the first page and the bottom half of the page contained these words:
I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,
whoever I was, I was
for a little while.
I want to say that it took my breath away but it actually gave me my breath back. I gasped and took in a full breath air for the first time in maybe a dozen years. How could this arrangement of words become the balm that I didn’t know existed?
This excerpt is from the poem “Dogfish” by Mary Oliver. It can be found in her selection of poems in the book Dream Work .
Needless to say I borrowed that book from the library. I carried the book around the house, sometimes standing and reading a poem while eating the leftovers I scraped from the kid’s plates.
The 2019 post is an homage to mothers. And I wrote:
As I integrated poetry in my life, I noticed that all the moms in my life were poets, including that one who literally was a beautiful poet (my pretend brandy and pretend cigarette friend). Taking the essence and turning into what we could because we couldn’t bear the length or drama of a life of prose. A poetic life was more forgiving. Like Mary Oliver says in her book of essays, Upstream:
“…the poem is a temple – or a green field – a place to enter, and in which to feel…I learned that the poem was made not just to exist, but to speak – to be company. It was everything that was needed, when everything was needed.”
As mothers, we keep each other company as we do everything that is needed when it is needed for our families. We are poems.
And here is an oldie I remembered while reading my old post:
Advice to Myself
Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.
– Louise Erdrich
Pick one or more…
- Copy one or more poems today.
- Paint with abandon.
- What is your relationship to poetry?
- Discover a new poet today and read a poem. (You can pick one of the above poets I have mentioned if you don’t know where to begin.)
- Share a poem that moves you right now with someone.
- Paint with abandon.