I am in MIchigan this week, delivering the painted quilt to my dad in Grand Rapids, and revisiting favorite locations of my childhood. One place I went today was the bookstore that I frequented in high school, Reader's World in Holland. Here I discovered a new book by a favorite contemplative writer, John O'Donohue. He died in 2008, so this is technically not a new book, but it is a rerelease of his first book of poetry. It is called Echoes of Memory. Here is the first poem from the book:
They are to be admired those survivors
of solitude who have gone with no maps
into the room without features,
where no wilderness awaits a footstep trace,
no path of danger to a cold summit
to look back on and feel exuberant,
no clarity of territories yet untouched
that tremble near the human breath,
no thickets of undergrowth with deep pores
to nest the litanies of wind addicted birds,
no friendship of other explorers
drawn into the dream of the unknown.
No. They do not belong to the outside worship
of the earth, but risk themselves in the interior
space where the senses have nothing to celebrate,
where the air intensifies the intrusion of the human
and a poultice of silence pulls every sound
out of circulation down into the ground,
where in the panic of being each breath unravels
an ever deeper strand in the web of weaving mind,
shawls of thought fall off, empty and lost,
where only the red scream of the blood continues unheard
without anonymous skin, and the end of all exploring
is the relentless arrival at an ever novel nowhere.
LATE SEASON BLIZZARD
March snow can make one weep,
from the fatigue of shivering
…and too much sleep.
March storms can bring despair
from so much winter,
… and long underwear.
Convocation of circles:
twelve fishers of men.
Boats on a stormy sea,
and ninety six lost fish.
WHAT IS POETRY?
What is poetry, but this word
next to that word, or this man
next to that woman? On the
city bus, strangers lost in love.
I often write what I call Journal Poems. These are short verses that have to do with daily life. This, in haiku form, from yesterday:
Piled around me
like bricks waiting for a house
to make of themselves.
These from Rainbows are Made, by Carl Sandburg, a beautiful volume, illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg:
Poetry is a series of explanations of life, fading off into horizons too swift for explanations.
Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable.
Poetry is a shuffling of boxes of illusions buckled with a strap of facts.
Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.
Poetry is a section of river-fog and moving boat-lights, delivered between bridges and whistles, so one says, "Oh!" and another, "How?"
Poetry is a sequence of dots and dashes, spelling depths, crypts, cross-lights, and moon wisps.
Poetry is not just matter of form, but a habit of insight...
Poetry is a Dumb-Ass Spider.
The next several are all from Wallace Stevens:
Poetry is a form of melancholia.
Poetry is not a personal matter.
Poetry is the expression of the experience of poetry.
Poetry is the sum of its attributes.
Poetry is a purging of the world's poverty and change and evil and death. It is a present perfecting, a satisfaction in the irremediable poverty of life.
Poetry is the scholar's art.
Poetry is a pheasant disappearing in the brush.
Poetry is a metaphor.
Poetry is a means of redemption.
Poetry is the gaiety (joy) of language.
Poetry is a health.
Poetry is a cure of the mind.
Poetry is a response to the daily need of getting the world right.
Poetry is often a revelation of the elements of appearance.
Poetry constantly requires a new relation.
Poetry is a renovation of experience. Originality is an escape from repetition.
Poetry is reality and thought or feeling.
Poems are praise, and poems cannot end.
William Jay Smith Independence Day
Poetry is the only verity- the expression of a sound mind speaking after the ideal, not after the apparent.
Poetry is deep gossip.
Poetry--thank goodness—is the animal that always escapes.
Poetry is everywhere; it just needs editing.
Poetry is born out of the superfluity of language's own resources and energy. It's a kind of overdoing it. Enough is not enough when it comes to poetry.
A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth."
Percy B Shelley
The rhythmic creation of beauty. Edgar Allen Poe
The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in tranquility. William Wordsworth
Prose: words in their best order; poetry, the best words in the best order. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The art of doing by means of words what the painter does by means of color. Thomas Macaulay
Speech framed to be heard for its own sake and interest even over and above its interest of meaning. Gerard Manley Hopkins
What ideas feel like. Karl Shapiro
No ideas but in things. William Carlos Williams
The art that offers depth in a moment. Molly Peacock
Memorable speech. W. H. Auden
Perfection of form united with a significance of feeling. T. S. Eliot
A way of using words to say things which could not possibly be said in any other way, things which in a sense do not exist
till they are born . . . in poetry. C. Day Lewis
Poetry is like sawdust coming from under the saw
or soft yellowish shavings from a plane.
Poetry is washing hands in the evening
or a clean handkerchief that my late aunt
never forgot to put in my pocket.
(trans. by Sam Hamill)
Poetry is the denial of death.
Poetry is that species of composition which is opposed to works of
science, by proposing for its immediate object pleasure, not truth; and
from all other species ... it is discriminated by proposing to itself
such delight from the whole, as is compatible with a distinct
gratification from each component part. (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
If I read a book, and it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can
warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my
head were taken off, I know that is poetry. (Emily Dickinson)
A poem is a box, a thing, to put other things in. For safe keeping.
Poetry is language that sounds better and means more.
"Poetry is an orphan of silence."
I am a poet and translator of ancient Chinese poetry.