I needed a poem. Badly. So I went to the bookcases to get as many of the books of poems as I could, by poets old and new from around the world, pulled them down from the shelves — no mean feat when I can’t step on a ladder on account of my broken ankle. Bucket brigade on crutches. Moving words. From the bookcases to the ironing board, from the ironing board to my other desk where the computer is not.
Taking the books and opening them I read at random, read out loud to hear the words and cadence of sentences, to feel the edges of the lines that touches the space between the word.
It was not quenching the need, this reading of poems. It was instead inciting a deeper need, desire to discover a gathering of words that would serve as a balm for goodness knows what that was stirring inside me.
With all due respect to my previous English teachers, to define poetry, or describe it utterly defies language. That’s not to say that people don’t try, but art (as opposed to art criticism) bypasses intellect and goes for the guts. And poetry is an art.
Art touches, moves, and affects. It can knock you on your ass, or sneak up on you after a while. A work of art, including a poem, has a power that captures and hold.
I wanted a poem to reach into me, to grab me by all my interior senses, leave me gasping, dripping and changed. And it needn’t be a poem of aching hearts or death marches or love or childhood.
As I read, snippets of poems that caught my attention. “Creatures of the gone world walk…” We have many gone worlds. Many creatures once walked.
Bits of poems asked questions:
excerpted from since feeling is first, by e.e. cummings:
“since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things…”
excerpted from: How Does Love Speak? by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
“How does Love speak?
By the uneven heart-throbs, and the freak
Of bounding pulses that stand still and ache
While new emotions, like strange barges, make
Along vein-channels their disturbing course,
Still as the dawn, and with the dawn’s swift force:
Thus doth Love speak.
How does Love speak?
In the avoidance of that which we seek
The sudden silence and reserve when near;
The eye that glistens with an unshed tear;
The joy that seems the counterpart of fear,
As the alarmed heart leads in the breast…..”
I couldn’t find it. The one poem. So I headed online and read some bad and occasionally clever poems by other, many unknown poets.
Reading, consuming words and all that they conjured, I remained unsatisfied, unfreed, chained to the earth still.
It wasn’t the poems I was reading. It was me. Something in me looking for, I don’t know, proof of the power of words to slip past conscious mind, to move heart and soul?
Do other people do this? Look for poems? Read poetry? Out loud? Marvel in the words and the images and colours and senses and feelings they evoke?
In my mind’s eye I had images of vessels, of crucibles, of containers, and wanted a poem that would pour out and fill them all. Fill me.
It was clear then that it wasn’t a poem I was looking for at all: it was an experience of poetry. And then I was sated.