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Monday, March 19, 2007

Joy in Poetry

The other day I left a note for Sir Gawain, who I hope has many days to come at Heaven Tree before the Green Knight chops off his head. And my little note has made me think about poetry (rather than simply poems) again:

“it’s much more like being met, that some part of us has been recognised” (Armstrong)

Thinking about Rilke and “Archaic Torso of Apollo” once again: the work of art sees us, measures all that is in us that can match and mate with it, and we find ourselves as in a magical mirror that calls us toward transformation. And it seems to me that the upwelling response to a work of art begins our metamorphosis.

And perhaps if one can have enough transformation, the little hard grit of the soul may be washed and washed to pearldom!

I’ve been asking myself why this little matter of poetry concerns me so nearly. Why do I embrace, again and again, certain collections of words, lyric to epic? The older I get, the more I find in certain poems (and stories and paintings and sculpture and so on, though here I am thinking specifically of poems) the sprigs of the tree of life.

1. I rejoice that poetry is intractable and will not be anything other than what it is. You cannot distort a poem; if you try, it will return to its original condition when you are done with your wrongheaded readings and look at you until you are fit to see it properly.

2. I rejoice that you cannot make a movie out of a poem.

3. I rejoice that the yoking of unexpected and even unorthodox things in a poem can still cause a great flowering of joy and wonder and surprise.

4. I rejoice that a poem can take what is foolish, weak, and empty in me and fill and transform by force.

5. I rejoice that poetry is alien to technology. All technology can do is repeat it, as if on a page, sometimes with the addition of images that are more or less pleasing—or read it aloud, as if the poet or another read but with a second-hand setting.

6. I rejoice that a poem's strength made from “a mouthful of air” and even from weak and foolish images.

7. I rejoice that poetry is not useful and cannot make up a part of the body of capitalist economy but floats somewhere out of reach, like a halo.

8. I rejoice that I can get lost in a poem.

9. I rejoice that poetry is a mad, mad pursuit in the current age.

10. I rejoice that poetry has survived Modernism and Postmodernism.

11. I rejoice that it simply doesn’t matter that poetry doesn’t matter to almost everybody.

12. I rejoice that poetry is not politics.

13. I rejoice that poetry measures the height and depth of me.

14. I rejoice that poetry is nakedly mystical and joyful.

15. I rejoice that the best poems cannot be confused with prose by getting rid of the line breaks but have language, rhythm, and sound that is not daily.

16. I rejoice that poetry is made out of the world’s brokenness into a ravishing whole.

17. I rejoice that poetry makes us go to the fount, and that it is worth doing so to get a pail of water, even if we get a broken crown along the way.

18. I rejoice that no matter how long a teacher talks, the soul of a poem cannot be taught.

19. I rejoice that poetry refuses to be quick and easy, that it turns a back on all that is fast in our age, the Fast Age that makes us fast from beauty and the metaphysical.

20. I rejoice that a wonderful poem does not give up all of its secret but remains inexhaustibly, fruitfully strange, even to its maker.

Okay, that’s enough rejoicing! None of those apply to all poems; they don't all apply to each of the poems I love best. But they do give a whole picture, nevertheless.

Image courtesy of and Stefan Kuemmel of Graz, Austria.


  1. This is a beautiful, wise, and true post, marly. I'm not sure which of your rejoicings is dearest to my heart; all I know is that I went through them going "Yes!". It's rarely spoken of, poetry. Not truly. Thank you. (the current word verification is kind of nice too: txypixn. Surely it has to do with pixies..and fairy houses.)

  2. Great list! I am in agreement with all your points, I think. This kind of affirmation is rarer than it should be among the internet partisans of poetry, who seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time listing the qualities of poems they don't like.

  3. Tixie pixie?

    My mother ran off to Georgia: hence no fairy houses. I will have to tell her that you are still waiting, jarvenpa! One of her brothers had a birthday and is an astonishing 99. There's a long stretch of more than 20 years between them.

    And I'm very glad that you liked it. You are a joy-shot person, I think.


    In agreement with all points: perhaps I was not outrageous enough, then. But yes, I think part of this came out of being tired of the way poetry is addressed.

    When I read many of the very smart people who populate the web, I sometimes think that in the end, none of this talk about what fiction and poetry shouldn't or should be matters because a writer of sufficient strength will just leap lightly over all these complaints and go on down the path rejoicing.

  4. I do not take pleasure in pointing out that someone is indeed making a movie adaptation of a poem; it is Paradise Lost. I am not sure what to think of the attempt.

  5. Poetry (from the Greek "ποίησις," poiesis, a "making" or "creating")


    11. I rejoice that it simply doesn’t matter that poetry doesn’t matter to almost everybody.


    12. I rejoice that poetry is not politics.


    ………a writer of sufficient strength will just leap lightly over all these complaints and go on down the path rejoicing.

    That’s all right then!

    I rejoice that you have thought these things and shared them with us.

  6. I think you have revealed a lot about yourself in this post, and its a wonderment for a poet to reveal personal understandings of poetry.

    THere is a lot to be learned and mulled over in this post.

  7. imani,

    I always like imani-in-a-hat pictures. Need to remember to stick you on my bloglist...

    Though I didn't know about that movie, I actually considered that one could make the mistake of believing that an epic like PL could be made into a movie. But the process of trying to do so eliminates everything that makes a poem a poem. The only thing that carries through is "story," if there is one, and that's not enough. (However, I'm not spreading that around--if a director wants to pay poets, I say "hurrah!")


    I'm not entirely sure what the dots and questions mean, but no doubt they are entirely in keeping with the mystery of the subject. And I'm glad you're glad: one must keep these sculptors happy.


    One trick of a blog seems to be to reveal exactly the right amount. But perhaps I don't know what that is.

    I shall have to go see: too much, too little, or just right? The Goldilocks dilemma.

  8. 11 and 12 I question; but your last puts it right.

  9. Hey Marly,

    I like this post. I agree that the soul of a poem can not be taught, but inspired and excited teachers often give of their soul, and pass excitment along, for the creating of poems. At least that's what I tried to do, when I was teaching English and poetry. Most of my kids really got into it too.

    Thanks too for posting at my site. I am finally feeling better and have done two drawings that I am going to try to post tonight at home. And no, you haven't sent the book yet, but that's okay. Whenever you get a chance. Your life is much more complicated than mine, with your house full of offspring.

  10. Robert,

    11. Yes, one wishes it were not so. But somehow I still have the heart to make them anyway. And not only that, to make them in forms--a thing even less regarded.

    12. Oh, there is always furor about being overtly political in poems--the need to, the moral imperative to, the duty to. It makes me "heavy bored," as John Berryman once said in a poem. As a poet, I kick the dust of all that off my heels and walk on. Of course, one cannot help but be of one's time and place, and it's quite possible to argue that that in itself is "political."


    I wonder, I really wonder where I put that book after I signed it and put it in the little mailer. No doubt it will surface, as I am doing a ferocious spring cleaning in preparation for Yaddo.

    I agree that a teacher's true love for poetry goes straight to the heart of many kids. And I don't mean that one shouldn't appreciate them in school--just that endless cutting-apart of the body of a poem is deadening.

  11. i agree completely with your post
    and the follow ups to comments.

    when i finally REALLY discovered books
    beyond the few horse stories i read as a kid
    i felt like a starving refuge from a desert island. Poetry grabbed hold of me in high school.
    Whenever i visited a new town, i immediately went to the library and scoured the shelves
    particularly children's lit
    and collected all manner of xeroxed sheets and hand written favorite poems.
    poetry changed me
    still does...
    and you've also reminded me that i want to order your Claire...which i am off to do right now! (i'm upset with myself for forgetting!!)

    i really hate it when i let "making a living" becomes the exact opposite of true living.

    ah well
    at least there is Marly's Palace for remembrance and refuge!

  12. The phrase " Poetry is the Height and Depth Of Me" ...sums up.
    And the Yoking of Unexpected Things..
    So much to mull over, lull over..

  13. Hello, Jan and Zephyr,

    I guess we all have a palace to make, and just hope that it's more like a chambered nautilus than like a caddis fly--although perhaps we get a little of each.

    My today is cleaning and ferrying and writing a poem, and anything else that comes along... Sounds like caddis fly.

  14. Ah Marly,

    I know what you mean about cutting them apart. I always hated that part of the poetry process in school. Seems that was all we did with poetry when I was young.

    I tried to steer clear of that when teaching. A few exaples of poem's rhyme schemes and such for the old EOG test, a few things about meter, rythmn, and a couple of forms, but after that we WROTE poetry. The kids and myself included. It was the one time of year I got to teach any creative writing in middle school, and I loved it. We even did scrapbooks of poems, where they had to illustrate the poem they wrote in some way. I think I may pull out this project for my fifth graders in art, and do a little cross teaching.

    Don't worry too much about the book, it will surface in due time.

    Also thanks for visiting my site today. I hope to put up those drawings and do a couple of more tonight.

  15. the pot boy needs to come dance a jig at Susangalique tonight.

  16. No doubt he will be twitching his handsome young toes...

    I wonder what "Down by the Salley Garden" sounds like on the accordion?

  17. "Down by the Salle Garden"...that might be do-able.

  18. Marly, when I was in the "cleaning/ferrying" stage, I descibed myself as a whirligig really felt like that.

  19. Hey there,

    More trees have appeared on my site.

  20. Oops, that should have been "Gardens"! Go for it, Susanna--I love that song, and I love the story about Yeats hearing an old Irish lady singing something like it. I imagine his version was his very own, as it sounds so much like early Yeats.

    Jan, I think that sounds exactly right. "Busy as a bug" is an expression that I learned from somebody Southern, growing up. Remember Twelfth Night, "the whirligig of time"?

    And Donna, I shall certainly walk in the trees. Have to keep up with my seminar students! I moved my raku pot onto a darkish shelf under a table, and its gleams often catch my eye--and then I think of that unusually important week in my life...

  21. Marly, this is a very thoughtful list. I'm not sure that I agree fully with every item, but with most I certainly do. I'll keep thinking about the few now.

    (Oh, "Down by the Salley Gardens" sounds fine on accordion!)

  22. It would be a strange thing, MB, if everyone agreed with me--when so patently the world at large doesn't! And I imagine that you will have some interesting disagreements--some I can guess at, and some that are surprises.

  23. I can't believe you came up with a list 20 items long !

    Occasionally, my wife asks me to list the reasons I love her -- and though I can rattle off four or five in a hurry -- a dense cloud of unknowing settles over my head -- and my mind begins to strain. (much to her impatient annoyance)

    There are so few poems that pull me into a world of delight -- all almost all of them are from those anthologies that end in the 19th C.

    (Dylan Thomas is the only 20th C. poet I've wanted to memorize - other, of course, than Robert Graves' discussion of the "Naked and the Nude")

    But I do like personal poems -- like ones in blogs -- or the ones I write for family occasions (marriages and funerals summon my muse !)

    Wait -- I also like to hear readings of the Beat poets -- like a theatrical monolog - rambling away in their wide-eyed fashion.

    So -- maybe -- if I strained -- I could get the list of up to 4 or 5 -- but then that damn cloud of unknowing settles in again !

  24. Most, as I said, have me saying yes, yes, yes. And I really am amazed you came up with all these.

    1. I'm not sure I understand your meaning. Are you saying the poem exists without the reader? (In which case, I would say it both does and does not.)

    7. Sometimes I wish poetry were useful, as a hand-made pot is useful, for then I could have it all around me in my daily life, live in it, live it. But perhaps you are right that it is a good thing for it to be out of reach ... like a halo.

    15. Is that true? Some of the best prose can be confused with poetry, so why not the converse?

  25. Chris, you'd better consider her life as a work of art: you seem to have no trouble rattling away in that situation! Perhaps if you looked at your wife at many points of time you could come up with a novel-length list.

    Or you could recite a love poem to her and save the trouble!

    I think that you would like Kathleen Raine. I'm sure you can find her Collected Poems (Counterpoint) somewhere in Chicago. She's in the family tree near Blake and Yeats, but she died only recently.


    I was interested to see where we would part ways.

    1. No, I mean that one glory of a poem is that it survives its misreadings.

    7. Oh, you don't disagree. But I think it is possible to "live in it" a good deal. Probably you already do.

    15. For me, it is true. I believe that one of the mistakes of the 20th century was to reject certain ancient tools of poetry forever. It's not quite so bad a mistake as certain other 20th-century mistakes, such as attempting to exterminate whole peoples, or wading hip-deep in bloody nationalism, but it is an important one to me.

    Yes, there is a power and energy in breaking form, particularly if meter and forms and rhyme are already in your bones. But if one only breaks and breaks and breaks over the years--and one passes on breakage to the next generations--the laws of diminishing returns will set in.

    I am perfectly well aware that the majority of poets in this time would not agree with me. At a different point in my life, I would have disagreed with the-me-that-is-in-the-now. So I don't mind a bit that you don't agree with me, or that you define what a poem is differently than I do.

    For my own work, I will embrace and take strength from those ancient tools that still have life in them and can still be used in new, surprising ways. And I will "break out" occasionally as well.

    It doesn't stop me from feeling friendly toward poets who feel otherwise, or toward their work. I suppose that I am too curious to be otherwise than I am.


    My ferrying for the day ended a few minutes ago, and now it is time for the dread task of stirring people up to finish homework! See you all tomorrow...

  26. I think you could adapt that quite easily into Chris's feelings for sculpture which I broadly share. No hard and fast rules though, such is the privileged of our time.

    I feel very much the same for music. However I can remember my parents opinions about 19th century architecture, Victorian vicarages with little gothic turrets were considered very unattractive. I wonder if this is to some degree generation gap.

  27. Robert,

    Yes, I'm sure that a lot of us in different disciplines are on the same wave length. I have considerable faith in a swelling surge that sends ripples through all the arts; it demands a return to beauty, and a return to a basic understanding of the ancient tools of the arts that never grow old and can always be handled in new ways.

    That, I think, is the only edge that can cut for me. Otherwise, I don't care for "cutting edge."

    But I think the scene is far more splintered than "generation gap" would indicate. I certainly used to write mostly free verse. Eventually the idea trickled into my head that what I wrote wasn't "enough" for me, and that I would like to see if those old shapes and rhythms could speak today.

    I also have no belief in the idea of "progress" in the arts. Instead, I would hold to the idea of an ongoing and fruitful metamorphosis.

  28. 1. Ah, I see now. I won't dispute that!

    7. Not in the way I mean here. I have, for instance, objects I use daily that were made by friends and every time I use those items, I have an opportunity to remember, to admire, to experience their (referencing both item and friend!) beauty all over. Poems are not accessible, concrete, or three-dimensional, in the same way and I sometimes wish they were. I can't "use" a poem at every meal. I can't sleep under a poem. I must open the book, or pick up the page. You see? You are right that my world is colored by poetry — it affects my thoughts, how I see, how I listen. It affects my songwriting, my perception of music, art, literature, and everything else. It affects how I love someone, ultimately. But I think that's different, a little more abstract, than what I meant.

    15. With every art form there are periodic attempts to push boundaries, to fracture the usual ways of thinking in order to find something new. There has been a particular explosion of that in this century — though such attempts to varying degrees have occurred at other times in history as well, along with genocide and bloody nationalism (good grief, never thought I'd combine such disparate things in one thought!) — and, in my opinion, with varying degrees of success. I don't care for the experimental extremes, the ones that depart radically from the metaphor and music of poetry I love. But I do think that historically some poets were experimenters and radicals in their day, it all being somewhat relative. You asked about other poets whose work I enjoy and, in thinking about my list (which is long and wide and always growing), it's clear that I enjoy different poets for different reasons. To find something that is truly all-of-a-piece wonderful, that has everything — well, I'm not sure I've found that yet. Which is an interesting realization and one I'm grateful you pushed me to. For example, I love Oliver's and some of WC Williams' poems (those I grew up on) for their visual imagery, their clean simplicity, their intimations of something more below the surface. I love Hopkins' poems for their music and love of nature. Similarly, but differently, I love Thomas' for the lushness and rippling language. I love Rumi's and Hafiz's for the surprises and where they take me. Wm Stafford - honesty and sense of place. Simic - imagination and creative metaphors. Oh, there are so many! (I'd love to know some of yours.)

    What you speak of here — language, rhythm, and sound that is not daily — is what I think of as the "music" of poetry. I think most, if not all, the poems I enjoy have that to some degree. If I have any trouble with forms, it is only to the extent that they are used in ways that make the reader more aware of the form than of the content, or the form doesn't fit the content. I believe the form should serve to carry the content. Yes, it's there in its own right, as music, but not to dominate the situation. I guess that gets back to my belief that a poem truly serves to communicate something more, in a way that cannot be otherwise done. This can be accomplished in free verse by use of imagery and line breaks. It can also be done using rhythm and sound. To me, speaking off the cuff here, the ultimate combination would include language, rhythm and pace, sound, imagery, metaphor, and meaning. I suspect we're not different on that, though the degrees of what we enjoy might differ.

  29. P.S. Sorry for being prolix.

  30. MB,

    Perhaps if human beings were to suddenly metamorphose in some astonishing way, we then would be able do drink a poem--to drink from a poem--to let that liquid music pour straight into our every cell... We might bathe in poetry and soak it in through our pores.

    But I get a great deal of pleasure from a handthrown pottery cup, or my Mrs. Tiggy Winkle cup, and think that there is a kind of humble poetry to them.

    But I'm afraid, in the end, I like it that poetry is utterly, sublimely useless.


    We coincide on Hopkins and Thomas (haven't read the latter in ages)--I loved WCW when I was young, so I won't malign him, but I have come to think that he wasn't all that good for poetry. Stafford I used to like and probably still do. Haven't read him in a while.

    I like a lot of poems in translation, including some by poets you mention, but I'd really have to ponder a list of foreign poets. Lorca. Rilke. Homer and Christopher Logue's versions of him. Dante. Heaps and heaps of others. It's so delicious to frolic in Chinese or South American or Scandinavian poetry, say, even though one is missing so very much.

    In English, I especially like lots of O. E. and Middle English verse, Sir Thomas Wyatt and some Surrey, some Spenser, some Sidney and Drayton, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Herbert, Donne, Marvell (wonderful Marvell), lots of minor lyric poets of the 16th and 17th centuries, Anne Bradstreet, Edward Taylor, Keats, Christopher Smart, Rossetti (both brother and sister), Morris, Tennyson, some Browning (husband and wife), Blake, Dickinson, Whitman, YeatsYeatsYeats, the usual Modernists (though I haven't read them in a while) plus Frost (the metrical master), Heaney, Wilbur, Molly Peacock, Kathleen Raine, William Harmon, Charles Causley, Christopher Logue. What a silly, silly list--it leaves out more than I put in. But one has to stop somewhere.

    There are people I don't love so much--I have dutifully read Pope and Johnson and so on, but I don't love them, though they have their bright and shining moments. The eighteenth century is not my particular cup of tea.

    Lately I've been reading Scott Cairns. Next on my mental list of poets to read are Geoffrey Hill and John Montague, Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder and more Philip Lee Williams. Oh, and I want to go back and read Kenneth Koch. I didn't appreciate him when I was young. Locally, we have Drum Hadley part of the year, and I want to read some more of his poems.

    You have nailed me on music. Make my ear deliriously happy, please!
    Whatever our differences, we are members of a wonderful, varied band of word-pushers. And that really has made all the difference, hasn't it?


    Or to say what matters in fewer words:

    "Here are your waters and your watering place.

    Drink and be whole again beyond confusion."

    Thank you, Mr. Frost.

  31. I almost punked out of my lesson today but after checking my messages and seeing your music request made me jump up and hawl it to town.

  32. Why, thank you, Miss Susanna of Alabama!

    I wish that the piano lessons and guitar lessons around here could be managed so easily. I think I'll wish for a magic boot that, applied without undue force to the backside (in a kindly, helpful manner--you see?), would magically transport a child to the music teacher's side.

  33. And that makes all the difference, yes. Ah, see now, I love this because you've given me ideas! I knew you would. Thank you. Not all of these have I met or read, and many others deserve more than the time I've given them. There's poetry to fill a lifetime, of course, even without the other stuff of life. In this list our two styles mingled be! I, too, appreciate O.E., Shakespeare, Dickinson, Yeats, to name a few... By the way, The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry is one I particularly relate to.

    Thank so much, Marly.

  34. Nose pressed up against the glass of my traveling working-world laptop's screen -- ah! Joy! Joy erupting into a lovely discussion thread!

    Will return.

  35. MB,

    And then there's always Where the Wild Things are for an opposing view... I'm glad you found something of interest. I think you would like Kathleen Raine.


    Happy travels!

    If you had gotten that email that's going the rounds--the one with the screen cleaner that turns out to be a pack of assorted puppies, licking the screen from the inside--you wouldn't go sticking your nose on the window that way!

  36. Such a joyful list! Thanks so much for this. I occasionally need to be reminded of the restorative powers of poetry.

    I rejoice that I can be transported by the Court Wits (the 'merry gang' who abhorred all discourse that was serious), by Donne and Blake just as I was twenty years ago.

    I'm once again in that sunny campus library, late for class, crouched in a carrel reading the naked Blake laughing from his garden ...'he who kisses the joy as it flies lives in eternity's sunrise.'

    I'm again in a crowded room listening to Dr. Hooks lose himself in the perfect rhythm of 'gold to airy thinness beat', all of us silent, just letting it sink in, expand around us.

    I'm again trying to memorize some bit of Marlowe for a girl I was crazy about, to make me immortal with a kiss!

    And then as a husband, a father, discovering Billy Collins as he sailed toward the iceberg of Emily Dickinson's nakedness, or tied his shoes while the dead peered down on him from the glass bottom boats of heaven.

  37. Our two souls therefore, which are one,
    Though I must go, endure not yet
    A breach, but an expansion,
    Like gold to airy thinness beat.



    Ah, youth--

    Evidently it really is "a stuff will not endure."

    And I suppose you learned a lesson or two from your Sweet Helen, James!

    Those are all ravishing fragments, aren't they? Blake, Marlowe, Donne: all worth much rereading.

    I have a poem coming out in The Raintown Review that is a riposte to the Billy Collins poem about Dickinson that you mention. It's called "A Fire in Ice." Emily doesn't like her clothes taken off by impertinent male poets--and necrophilia is not pretty--and Miss Dickinson is powerful. Watch out!

  38. This list could also serve as a definition of poetry, I think.

    Since I have never studied English Literature I am never quite sure I know what poetry actually is - your point number 15 is pertinent here.

    When I taught creative writing I was asked by the students what the difference between prose and poetry was and to try and answer them I decided to do an experiment. I took some non-rhyming poetry and reassembled it into the form of prose then gave them that together with some very lyrical prose and asked them to tell me which was which.

    And...they had no problem at all. Everyone knew. It seemed to be inherent and something we couldn't really define. We discussed then what we thought were the essential features of a poem - and I think we came up with a few of your rejoicings, Marly...but yours are more comprehensive, maybe because they come from a practitioner of the art.

  39. Clare,

    That was an interesting thing to do! And I would have had no idea whether they could tell or not.

    Yes, I knew no. 15 would be the one people would stub toes on.

    A practioner of the art... It's funny that though one can feel ecstatic about poetry, the stance of a poet before the art and the blank page ought to be humility. There's a certain strangeness in that idea.

  40. This is a wonderful list! Thanks for stopping by and I hope my beginners poetry didn't hurt your ears. lol

  41. Well, I'm certainly late to this party, so just wanted to pop in and say hello, after my recent Texan wanderings. I'll have to go back and reread this post so it will fully register.

  42. Tammy,

    Not a bit!

    I always notice you on Clare Dudman's site--I admire your spunk so much. And you not only have the will to soldier on, but you are full of affection for the people around you. I find that inspiring; it puts a formidable hurdle in the path of the rest of us. I stop, think, and go on my way feeling glad that the world has people like you. Another happy un-birthday to you.

    "O wonder!
    How many goodly creatures are there here!
    How beautious mankind is!
    O brave new world,
    That has such people in't!"

    My father had PSP (not the same, but with certain similarities) and fought it for a decade. The will to live is a powerful, astonishing thing.



    Welcome home!

    I loved the vicarious trip to Texas.

  43. Thanks for all your thinking, too, Marly — all very enjoyable!


  44. Dang -- try as I might to digest enough to contribute/play, my lil' jet-lagged gray Wit-cells insist I print this out and reread with more focus and thoughtfulness.

    (I'm reduced to "Yay! Poetry! Yay! Marly!" for now...)

  45. I put up another song, still working on Salley Gaardens :)

  46. Thanks again, MB!


    I shall listen, even if it's not Salley Gardens!


    Your gray cells will feel happier in the morning.

  47. Thanks for this, Marly, it was somehow comforting, I hope that doesn't miss the point!
    I've stopped trying to 'do' poetry as such, having seen so much of it lately I've concluded I don't really have it in me, and am prepared to accept myself as a prosaic soul who can occasionally entertain potentially poetic angels unawares! But you have lifted some of the worry about it somehow. I'm still unlikely to write the stuff, but will relax more when I'm reading it!
    Oh yes, I'm glad someone else sees things in comment verification words too!

  48. Lucy,

    Today I see "ya tax," and that is very pertinent to somebody who'd better do her taxes! Soon. I imagine most "wordy" people see meaning in those jumbled letters--it's what we're wired to do, find meaning, isn't it?

    I'm glad it was "comforting," and I hope that you'll continue to like reading the stuff and even occasionally writing it! Of course, you'll keep up those interesting photograph-and-poem sequences--I'm sure of that.

  49. what a wonderful surprise to find on my return visit!
    drinking it all in...and slurping it up!

  50. Hi Zephyr--

    Wouldn't it be nice if I always knew what people would like?

    Welcome back!

  51. Oh Marly...isn't that the truth?...

  52. ...and can't believe i forgot to add:
    i LOVED your post in the garden ...about Miss Lobelia of Rope Walk, a mouse, a shrew and an injured butterfly
    Thank You...a wonderful post for me to find just before i call it a night myself

  53. Hello, Zephyr--

    I'm back on, writing my mama. And am very glad that pleased! My little N liked it as well, and sat in my lap (he's getting big for that) quietly for the whole story and asked lots of questions.

    The shrew and the mouse were quite kind to the poor butterfly.

  54. I responded to your Howl comment.

    And I put back on my spring bonnet :)

    Its so me, I dont think I ll ever really need another. I did decorate it myself out of stolen parts and remenants from my old work.

  55. I love it that your poetry has inspiered so much thought. Its really great.

  56. Susanna,

    I was just given a preposterous homemade hat--I'm dithering between wearing it and stashing it in our big dress-up box.

    Ah, has the Pot Boy been talking about Howl? I shall have to go and see.

    Yes, it is encouraging to think that people like that particular post.

  57. read back over your list and really enjoyed them in correlation to a new week.

    Tried to think of one of the things I love about poetry and thought of

    1. I love the calm feeling I get after reading a poem out-loud and the resounding sigh.

    2. I love that poetry demands from one a concise mastery of personal feelings and thought.

  58. Hello Miss Spring Hat,

    Oh, good! You're making your own list now. I'd differ from you on "personal" because I often write poems that are not at all "personal" (though readers tend to think in that direction.) One can wear a dress of fictions and false hair in a poem. Or spring hats when it is winter, for that matter.

    I'm tinkering with a poem now, and there's not the least grain of the personal in it--aside from the fact that it flew through my particular mind and exited via my fingertips.

    And I've spent so much time answering people on this post that I haven't written another yet...

  59. YES to rejoicing!

    And YES to having found your blog!

    (Thanks to MB who led me here as bloggers do, inadvertantly, wisely, mysteriously.)

  60. Hi Patry--

    Now that was a name (or nickname?) I hadn't met before. I'm glad you crawled over into my part of the web. Congratulations on your new book and living a genuine life on book tour!

    And yes, MB had a lot of interesting things to say about this one...

  61. Marly,

    Time and again your words put me at a crossroads in myself, but maybe I'm just climbing up and down the same tree.

    One path leads to the full green foliage where I could drown myself in the color of things outside me and lose sight of everything in the envy.

    The other way leads to more barren boughs that I must fill myself with my own color and design. But through the empty frames of branches, I am inspired by a wide and wild view of the whole world. Including the green half of the tree.

    My poet muscles are rusty, but I do remember that exercise the only way to grow. :P

    Thanks for this post.

  62. Hello, Annie--

    Have I seen you here before? I think not; welcome! And if you go walking around in that "green half," you may find your hands full of leaves that belong to you... Reading is so essential to writing, and the tree of life is rooted in words.

    So says the young crone!

    And now, back to pestering people for missing Miscellaneous Income for stories...

  63. Marly,

    I've read for a while, but been quiet until now. Your attention to visitors is admirable.

    I don't know if it came through in my previous comment, but I often find myself choosing between 1) wallowing in "I'll never be so brilliant" jealousy, and 2) seeing the artist as a role model and the work as inspiration to improve myself.

    The Palace gives me a lot to think about. :)

  64. Hi Annie--

    It's 8:00 p.m. (outside the palace), and I'm just back from ferrying children and going out to dinner--and here you are again!

    I'm very glad that it gives you something to think about--I would hate to have just a Silly Palace, though I like to be silly some of the time (and just was at dinner, sitting beside my equally silly friend Peter.)

    "Attention to visitors": yes, I suppose I do like to chat in my stray moments. Why, I wonder?

    1. Procrastination (especially when working on taxes.)

    2. Insatiable curiosity about the human race, so varied and often so wondrous.

    3. Maybe even out of a kind of love.

    4. A liking to be somewhere--to build a somewhere--that is populated by people who actually want to live in the radiance that is literature.

    Yes, I did see what you meant.

    I'd say that I have taken the little hard kernel of my life--a broken and malformed thing--and wrapped it round and round with pearl for many years. Some people don't care about my beautiful pearl, and some people love it, and most don't know that it exists. Now you may think that your hard little kernel is less than mine, but it's not; everybody starts with one little kernel.


    I'll have to come look at you on your "home ground" after I finish the horrible, horrible taxes.

  65. ug, girl you need to higher someone to do those taxes!

  66. "Higher" is right! Think it might take a higher power!

    The problem this year is that I moved my office, and I can't find everything as a result. All those little story receipts and so on... I need to dig them out of my midden of accumulated mess. But I'm almost there, just two more to go. And then they will go to the Tax Guy.

    First time I ever did my own taxes, a friend checked them for me and howled uncontrollably. I had made some ridiculous, fatal error. No, I don't do that step!

  67. OK invited a question so here's one for you:
    i'm not sure who wrote
    "Keep a poem in your pocket
    and a picture in your head
    and you'll never feel lonely
    at night where you're in bed"
    which has served me kinda well
    so, here's my question
    for you and others:
    what poem or picture
    do you keep in your head
    to keep the soul eaters at bay
    while taxing, ferrying amidst stupid drivers, herding dust bunnies when you'd rather be writing poems....etc?

  68. Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,

    And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;

    But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,

    The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar;

    When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,

    The line too labors, and the words move slow;

    Not so, when swift Camilla scours the plain,

    Flies o'er the unbending corn, and skims along the main.


    Hello, gentle zephyr--

    Now what business was it of mine to ask for a question, I wonder? It seems rather impertinent to me now.

    But I shall think about it. I've grown rather lazy about memorization...

    Oh, something for your garden mania, Miss Zephyr: when the snow heap next to the warmest side of the house melted, snowdrops and aconite were revealed, already blooming. It seems so brave of them, when there are mountains of white all around.

  69. Ah!....upon seeing a Zephyr Poem from Pope
    she beams at Marly-in-the-computer-screen.

    your sweet, brave aconites and snowdrops amidst mountains of white made an
    e.e. cummings line come to mind:
    "when faces called flowers float out of the ground"

    i memorized the WHOLE thing one year
    a very long time ago
    when my job each spring (a dream job i wish i could have stayed with forever) was to sit for long hours, alone, transplanting impatiens, tomato and pepper seedlings.

    P.S. i wish i could figure out a "keyboard translation" for "warm chuckle" know, as opposed to LOL

  70. Pope was always invoking zephyrs... But that's the one I remember most. Good old swift Camilla scouring the plain: a metrical lesson made palatable.

    I've really got to memorize more, and to relearn the ones that I'm slipping on.

    Yes, I don't think "W. C." will do!

    Cummings has a lot of sweetness, doesn't he? One forgets so much, until reminded.

  71. this line of conversation has me going to that place where i sometimes think "i wish i had taken more Lit classes..." but too often it was School Work, the kind that sent me racing out of doors, intimidated because i had no desire to obtain "critical thinking"
    i simply wished to learn the relevant stories and references--and most of all--to wallow in the magical meanings they meant to me and others, not to prove myself with deft analysis put onto paper for a grade.

    oh poo
    i went and got all serious.
    my fault, not the company nor the conversation. So,
    i dispel it and
    i'll ask
    do you know this one:

    once a snowflake fell
    on my brow and i loved
    it so much and i kissed
    it and it was so happy and called its cousins
    and brothers and a web
    of snow engulfed me then
    i reached to love them all
    and i squeezed them and they became
    a spring rain and i stood perfectly
    still and was a flower.
    --Nikki Giovanni

    i forgot that i wanted to say, before i read about your pearl and decided to ask "something"....anyway, my email alerted me that you visited my post about sister Cheri....thank you for finding and reading it!

  72. Oh, another break from writing business letters. Taxes are done, at least my part. Hello again, zephyr.

    I hadn't read a Giovanni poem in years. Are you sure it's not serious? Metamorphosis is serious business!

    One can't go by a post like the one about Cheri without at least leaving a little flower of the mind...

    My feeling is that I did too many classes of that sort, and risked destruction of an essential part of me. But the good part is that I've read an awful lot of obscure people that I might not have met--at least not so early--and believe that I survived it all.

    You know, I think many teachers would love a course of intense appreciation and nothing else. It's just that for so many "students," such a thing would be laughable and be immediately relegated to the very bottom of the heap.

  73. i think you are right about teachers and students
    and the seriousness of metamorphosis...

    it's why i love poems like this
    go either or
    depending on the mood
    the day
    the need.

    thanks for the good conversation, Marly. it's been a very pleasant respite in my topsy turvy day that found me exhausted even as i woke and needing breaks for refreshment while dutifully monitoring "business" communications.
    i should say: Thanks again!

    i think it's time i stood up and moved around and go breathe air from the chilly garden.

  74. Marly,

    Like everything else, I take communication lightly and quite seriously at the same time. Each new circle of people and each new media shows new challenges for bringing an honest self to it.

    You take good time on your taxes, and you can come visit me when you're through. I'm gutting my website, finding more virtue virtual sparseness than the clutter I've been accumulating for four years.

  75. Hi zephyr,
    Hi annie--

    Thanks for coming by and keeping me company again. Now I'm moving into my usual zany weekend--piano lessons, track meet, school play, etc.--because my three have no school tomorrow. I wonder why the district did that to me, when I'm trying to get my taxes in!

  76. Three! Marly, I had no idea. Please excuse my glass of wine.

    Since I have you trapped down at the bottom of the page, and there's nowhere more recent to turn to, I'd like to say that your recurring series of interviewing visitors is brilliant stuff.

    I have another point to make, but I'm having a hard time finding Occam's path to it. (Did you know that Sturgeon is a kind of fish? I didn't. What unfortunate names some authors have.)

    Also, the communication and such you have with visitors (like I mentioned before), lulls us (read: me) into a quick and peculiar kind of security usually reserved for clergy and childhood friends. Showing interest and attention to people is truly the best way to make loyal equaintances.

    May the extra day make your weekend extra rich!


  77. its all about the comment back story :o)

    Although Marly is much cooler than I . I give all kinds of attention to my readers and they wont play :o)

    FO real! I try to be as considerate.

  78. Horrors! It's a no-school day, but the boys got me up at 7:00 anyway. I had a dire need to sleep in before the inevitable fracas.

    Well, Miss Susanna of Alabama, it just takes a while. Go look at the posts when I first started. I did none of the things that one is supposed to do, but eventually I did get a few visitors who would leave a comment. One always has many more than the number of comments indicates, too, so check your stats for consolation.

    I make no claim on cool. I am now in the Young Crones Club. In fact, since I founded it, I'm the most ancient of Young Crones--having been an official Young Crone before anybody else. Lori Witzel and jarvenpa have joined in, and Laura of Laurelines has reproached me for the whole idea...

    You are a Alabamian Sylph. And Sylphs cannot spell. So there!

    Now I must go get some of those special magic toothpicks known for holding up the eyelids. After that comes a visit to Rich the Taxman, and then I'm on the receiving end of a no-doubt wild playdate.

  79. Blimey, Marly, 78 comments so far and still running! Must be some kind of record!
    Good luck with the fiscal folk, I think I might go see Annie; I love what she said about the envy-green branches and the barren ones.
    Even your comments page is a pretty cool place to be!

  80. ...what the hell, I'll make it a round 80!

  81. Lucy,

    Ideally, the comments ought to be the best thing. That is, it is always possible for people to have an interesting conversation, though oddly stretched over time--and sometimes over many blogs.

    I liked the tree, too. One can react to it in a number of ways. I'll see you over there!

  82. 81 is a nice strong number. three to the fourth. Oh, Marly showed up while my internet was down, so this'll be 82.

    Lucy-- The blognet is sometimes wonderfully reciprocating and inquisitive with interest in others. It's a horror of horrors when you find someone who is a breeze bringing comments but has no home blog of her own.

    I'll try to stick around and be interesting until I do. :) And in the meantime, I'll come calling on you.

    I just noticed that jarvenpa up here at the top of the page has the same fascination with verification words that I do.

    And Marly, don't you know that "cool" is to the mind what "beauty" is to the skin? It's all in the eye or mind of the beholder.

  83. Annie,

    You know those little "eye tattoos" than one sees only occasionally, when the eye is turned a certain way? (The whole idea gives me the shivers, really!) You must have a little cool window on your eye: thank you for seeing me through it.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.