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01 November 2006

Too tough a puzzle...and a poem

I should have broken the rules and chosen another book when I did the "What am I Reading" post last week. I don't think that I would have guessed it either. I am so bad at remembering quotes.

Google would actually have given you the answer to the first poem, but I know that none of my fine readers would cheat. That poem is: "I Wander'd Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth. It is on page 123 in Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse, by .....DING!DING!DING!DING! .... Dorothy was right when she guessed Mary Oliver in the comments. This book is, as the secondary title suggests, a handbook on poetry, with an anthology of poems which demonstrate the techniques that Oliver discusses in the book. The title (since I gave a clue to it in the previous post) comes from the following quote by Alexander Pope:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
I bought the Oliver book, along with two others (Why I Wake Early: New Poems, and Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems) at a reading that Mary Oliver gave at Butler University last week. It was a joy to listen to Ms. Oliver read a selection of her work. Some funny, some politically jabbing, many insightful: all gave the listener a sense of beauty and awe in life around us. Oliver's keen sense of observation of the natural world forces you to be aware not only of the world of the poem, but also of the world around you. I found it fitting, therefore, when a sudden windy storm blew through town in the middle of her reading, so loud that it could have drowned out the microphone. Oliver did not try to talk over it. Rather, she stood silently, almost reverently, and let the storm sing its own poem (a lament, I think) for a minute or so before continuing.

As I left the auditorium, the cooled air caused steam to rise from the warmer streets and lawns. As I walked the few blocks to my car, I composed a poem in my head. It seemed so perfect as I composed it. Although I tried to write it down as soon as I was in the car & had a pen, I'm sure that most of it immediately left my brain and was consumed by the foggy night. Even after I finish reading Oliver's handbook, I think it is unlikely that I'll ever master the artful dance of metrical poetry. Nevertheless, here is the less perfect form that I managed to record, still very much in stumbling, trip-on-your-own-toes, draft mode:

Leaving the Poetry Reading

The poet sings her poem
breathing metrically,
breaking just in time
for a thunderous rolling boom.
The rain came,
barreling out of the west,
pounding across the roof
shaming the perfect acoustics
into a resounding silence,
no one wanting to spoil
the wind's incantation.

After: stepping outside,
the moist air smacks my face,
no barrier preventing
mist's entry through my pores.
Fog curls up from the ground,
summer's warmth, not wanting
to give it up to the frost,
clings to the remaining blades.
The mist dampens
the harsh lights of the lot,
each drop a refraction of
ever-present, seldom-seem leaf light:
Amber air all around.

Breathe. Breathe.
Absorb. Imbue your spirit.
Nature bears
witness to the whole.

7 comments:

Susan Abraham said...

What a fantastic mini study in poetry, Cam, and with your own observations so astute.

Dorothy W. said...

Great poem! What a perfect response to the reading.

Well, that was a lucky guess on my part! I totally should have gotten the Wordsworth poem, but I didn't.

Rethabile said...

Very nice indeed. And to think you didn't jot down all of the original that was playing in your head!

LK said...

Right on, Dorothy. Very nice.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Excellent poem, especially the beginning!

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating exercise, and so well done. I really loved these lines:

"each drop a refraction of
ever-present, seldom-seen leaf light:"

Library Lady said...

Cam, sorry to bother you in the comments section, but I'm unable to find your RSS feed. I read that you use Bloglines. Am I missing it? I'm in such a habit of reading my feeds that I don't check my blogroll as often; which means I'm missing your gems. Maggie :D