I decided for today’s poetry to look at two things. 1. One of my favorite poets. 2. One of my favorite topics. I did this because I couldn’t decide on just one poem. And, I thought if I included several, it might spark your interest or inspire you to go seek out good poetry and nourish your soul!
One of my favorite poets is the American poet, essayist, and feminist Adrienne Rich. She contributed countless thought provoking and emotional poems since the 1950’s. One of her works of poetry is called The Dream of a Common Language, which includes the group of poems entitled, Twenty-one Love Poems. Below are my two favorites in the collection.
Every peak is a crater. This is the law of volcanoes,
making them eternally and visibly female.
No height without depth, without a burning core,
though our straw soles shred on the hardened lava.
I want to travel with you to every sacred mountain
smoking within like the sibyl stooped over her tripod,
I want to reach for your hand as we scale the path,
to feel your arteries glowing in my clasp,
never failing to note the small, jewel-like flower
unfamiliar to us, nameless till we rename her,
that clings to the slowly altering rock-
that detail outside ourselves that brings us to ourselves,
was here before us, knew we would come, and sees beyond us.
As I read this poem, I feel distinctly and proudly female. No height without depth, without a burning core. I love being described this way. It feels strong, and profound. I also find myself imagining traveling to every sacred mountain with my adventurous wife, holding her hand and discovering beauty together that is before us, within us, and beyond us.
No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone.
The accidents happen, we’re not heroines,
they happen in our lives like car crashes,
books that change us, neighborhoods
we move into and come to love.
Tristan und Isolde is scarcely the story,
women at least should know the difference
between love and death. No prison cup,
no penance. Merely a notion that the tape – recorder
should have caught some ghost of us: that tape – recorder
not merely played but should have listened to us,
and could instruct those after us:
this we were, this is how we tried to love,
and these are the forces we had ranged within us
within us and against us, against us and within us.
I relish the thought that love happens like books that change us. And, as someone who knows and appreciates the power of books, and of love, this poem gripped me from the opening lines. I think this poem, though beautiful in its entirety, opens and closes with profound meaning. How impactful and altering to believe that our lives and love could be a record for those after us, even a testimony for generations yet unborn of the meaning of love, more specifically, the power and depth of a love between my wife and my heart and soul.
Since there are so many poems and genres of poems out there in the world, my second focus was on one of my favorite topics, books. Yes, I have previously established that this might make me a dork, or boring, or any number of non-outgoing things, but I unapologetically love books and even poetry about books. The following two poems make me want to read and think and read some more until the world runs out of ink and pages to hold it.
And Yet the Books
by Czeslaw Milosz
And yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings,
That appeared once, still wet
As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
And, touched, coddled, began to live
In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up,
Tribes on the march, planets in motion.
“We are,” they said, even as their pages
Were being torn out, or a buzzing flame
Licked away their letters. So much more durable
Than we are, whose frail warmth
Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.
I imagine the earth when I am no more:
Nothing happens, no loss, it’s still a strange pageant,
Women’s dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,
Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.
Notes on the Art of Poetry
by Dylan Thomas
I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.
Books and poetry hold more power than the most notorious dictator. They inspire, uplift, bring you to a depth previously unknown to your inmost being, inform, teach, challenge, and expand. Thank you poets. Thank you writers. Thank you.