Happy Wednesday! Continuing the theme of “what are we reading that isn’t mystery fiction,” let’s talk poetry today, Wickeds. Who’s your favorite poet, or what’s your favorite poem and why?
Liz: I’ve been super into Mary Oliver lately. I discovered her years ago with her famous poem The Journey and lately I’ve been devouring her work. Wild Geese keeps coming up lately – one of her standards, but seems so relevant for me right now. I think she’s such a master at weaving life and nature into one concept. (As you can see, I like to mark my favorites!)
Edith: Mary Oliver is one of my favorites, too. “The Summer Day,” with it’s stunning, clarion-call last line: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I also love many of Billy Collin’s poems, particularly when I can hear him read them himself in his regular, almost deadpan voice. “Purity” is a wonderful poem for authors, about his favorite time to write, and how he goes about it. Here’s the first part:
My favorite time to write is in the late afternoon,
weekdays, particularly Wednesdays.
This is how I got about it:
I take a fresh pot of tea into my study and close the door.
Then I remove my clothes and leave them in a pile
as if I had melted to death and my legacy consisted of only
a white shirt, a pair of pants and a pot of cold tea.
Then I remove my flesh and hang it over a chair.
I slide it off my bones like a silken garment.
I do this so that what I write will be pure,
completely rinsed of the carnal,
uncontaminated by the preoccupations of the body.
Finally I remove each of my organs and arrange them
on a small table near the window.
I do not want to hear their ancient rhythms
when I am trying to tap out my own drumbeat.
Now I sit down at the desk, ready to begin.
I am entirely pure: nothing but a skeleton at a typewriter.
Sherry: I confess I don’t read a lot of poetry. It’s not that I don’t like it, but it usually isn’t on my radar unless someone posts a poem. I tend to like New England poets like Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Here is my favorite poem of hers. I had it posted on my bulletin board for years starting in high school:
Not In Vain
by Emily Dickinson
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Jessie: When I was a small child I received a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein which I loved for its silliness and its wisdom. I love it still. Here’s one of my favorites:
Listen to the Mustn’ts
Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.
Barb: In honor of Key West, I’m including poet Elizabeth Bishop. (Though I would note that three other poets mentioned in this post have connections there. Robert Frost spent part of eighteen winters, Shel Silverstein lived there, and Billy Collins lives there now.)
by Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
Julie: Like Sherry, I am not a huge poetry reader. But my friend Ruth Polleys makes me reconsider it. She has an MFA in poetry, and wrote a remarkable blog called “All That Can Happen in 1000 Days”. (A line from Our Town.) Part memoir of an extraordinary time in her life, part poetry journal. Very raw. I’ve been trying to talk her into doing something with it for a couple of years. Her passion for poetry is contagious, and her talent is real. I’m going to say that Ruth is my favorite poet. (PS, if you are going to read the blog, start from day one. It is a journey.)
Edith: These are all so wonderful. I must include one more, which I had on my wall for many years, by Rumi:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Readers: Share your favorite poet or poem!