I am not a poet. Poetry and poets scare me, a little bit. All those pithy words, coming together to form a piece that I often don’t fully understand. Poems that I have to work hard to untangle make me feel stupid.
But that’s not always the case. I will never be a poet (though at this point in my life I’ve learned that never is a very long time) but there are times that a poem hits me like a ton of bricks, over and over again, each time I read it.
Mary Oliver’s WILD GEESE is one of those. If you haven’t read it, go read it right now. It’s less than 20 lines. The images are haunting (“...the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes...”). Invariably I sigh when I finish reading the final lines.
Poetry is on my mind this morning because a video of Mary Oliver reading her poem THE SUMMER DAY appeared in my Facebook feed this morning, and the final line, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” took my breath away. Wow. Well, I don’t quite know...but I’m sure thinking about it.
I attended the Kachemak Bay Writer’s Conference last week in Homer, and it was excellent in every way (except perhaps for the tasteless chicken kebobs for lunch). I immediately became a groupie of Kwame Dawes, a Ghanaian-born Jamaican poet on the conference faculty. His welcoming attitude, his resonant voice and his sense of humor were all compelling. I decided to attend every session he offered, even though those sessions were about...yes, poetry.
And I was reminded of what those poets have that we prose writers need to emulate: a true love of language, a close scrutiny of of each word and each phrase, the precise collection of thoughts and images that tug at your core and won’t let you go.
Pretty good stuff.