Books! They hold us close and never judge and hold whole worlds in slim volumes for us to pick up anytime and find a thing we need. And wow is poetry needed. Always in the most unsuspecting of moments, too.
When we are reading poetry we are looking for something. And that something is often held in a line or two. And when we find it, it’s not that we don’t need the rest, but often there’s a great pause to consider and hold the thing we needed.
“Reprieve” is a poem I come to again and again, like that line about arriving at one’s self. I wonder about what that means but I feel it deeply. I know the feeling of being outside of myself, ungrounded, spaced, anxious to varying degrees and spun out on too many possibilities.
A brother. A train. Fat persimmon, sad heart. Impossible stars and dirt kissing and the idea of allowing your body love—this poem conjures a kind of longing to be touched that goes past what I think I know about love.
Well that’s the way poetry goes, isn’t it—an inkling, a bit you remember and lots you don’t, something that draws you back and then bam! A huge wave of feeling washes up and over as you start reading. It’s a basic way I interact with poems but they never fail to surprise me...
I don’t know how our country heals. Our society. Our world. I do know one to one, human to human, heart to heart openness is a path to change. It is slow. Poetry can help. If you’re like me and largely unaffected by day to day racism, maybe share this with someone in your life who can’t empathize or doesn’t care to?
I remember wandering around in the little woods and grassy knoll next to my shop, my new puppy nosing every inch of ground and my mind leaping from thought to thought through wide open process-oriented conversation. We talked about writing, poetry, printing, and publishing. Woodworking, teaching, backpacking, guiding. Dogs and road trips. Organizational pivots and flowers in ditches.
Dan used to always say, “Community isn't quid pro quo. You give what you have when you have it, and you get what you need when you need it.” I have experienced this to be true over, and over, and over again. Both in my giving and in my needing.
Delight is what gets me first with Mary’s poems, yes; but it’s the feeling of wild open possibility—the leaps of association that are not only permitted but reveled in—that stays with me through a day and keeps me coming back. The way she writes makes me feel free and seen and allowed to think the weird ways that I think, too.
This poem I have gone to many times over when I don’t know what to say when things are bad and hard. It reminds me I can still say thank you. The other place I’m reminded of that is outdoors and it’s no coincidence the book this poem is in looks like a field guide. It was designed that way to honor how Merwin lived and breathed with trees especially.
Second episode of Poetry Lunch. The series is inspired by the many incredible conversations I had with my gramma at our regular Tuesday lunches, when I would share proofs of what I was working on and she’d read them closely and critique them soundly and wander on speaking to personal connections and universal human feelings.
Hey everybody, here’s a poem for you read in honor of my grandmother who I used to have lunch with on Tuesdays—this is me (Myrna) reading “Alive Together” by Lisel Mueller, from her new and selected collection by the same title, published by LSU Press.