The days of the month slip from April to May. I want to do my share to celebrate poetry and applaud poets who gift me with words. While I am a literature lover, it was late in life when I fell in love with poetry. Though I have always enjoyed the familiar Dickinson or Frost, and laughed with my children through Shel Silverstein’s play land of words, for too, too long I approach the work of poets as ingenious expressions that I needed to analyze, dissect, or diagram in order to take away the meaning. And if I didn’t “get it”, well that was my fault, not the poet’s.
Bill Moyers’ Fooling with Words introduced me to another world of poets, and I began to feel the way words slip across my tongue, creating life-giving harmonies; producing words, lines, phrases that resonated within my soul – like “Yikes!” “Yippee!” “Oh yes!” “Oh my!” I discovered words expressing beliefs, values, experiences that direct my path; painting pictures I can step into; making more evident the mysteries of life; celebrating the universe; praising the divine.
Any list I make would be incomplete, but over the years I have been smitten with Coleman Barks, Jane Hirshfield, Marge Piercy, Maya Angelou, Wendell Berry, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Bill Collins, Mary Oliver, Denise Levertov . . . I have poetry of the lesser known but equally gifted writers, some of whom I have met in my writing groups.
Earlier this month, I scanned the library poetry display for a new read and picked up Denise Levertov’s The Great Unknowing. The title and cover told me there was something to be discovered in its pages. These forty poems were finished but unpublished at the time of her death. At the age of 74, Denise Levertov left behind a half century of twenty volumes of poetry.
I gasp with delight as I read “Aware”.
“When I opened the door
I found the vine leaves
speaking among themselves in abundant
My presence made
them hush their green breath,
embarrassed; . . .”
In “a Clearing” she takes us to the end of an enticing country road arriving at a
“paradise of cedars . . .
an expanse of sky where trees and sky
together protect the clearing.
One is sheltered here
from the assaulted world . . .
It is a paradise and paradise
is a kind of poem, it has
a poem’s characteristics:
inspiration, starting with the given;
unexpected harmonies; revelation.
It’s rare among
the worlds one finds
at the end of enticing driveways.”
Keeping company with the poets is like sitting with kinfolk or the best of friends, sharing ordinary wisdom or fooling with words. Delightful afternoon with a cup of tea.