For Monday, April 4, 2016:
“Part of the role of poetry and poets is … to force ourselves past the common ways of looking at things by being more responsive and by finding the uncommon, original, sidelong, nuanced, subtle, and not strive for this certainty, which seems such a bane of our current discourse.”
Jane Hirschfeld, Academy of American Poets
“Always be a poet, even in prose.”
It’s cold and snowing outside, and I could tell you that the ground is slowly growing white again, the birds are busy at the feeders, the early daffodils are bending down. That gives you the certainty of the reality. Welcome to Vermont in the spring.
Or I could show you how much the dogs enjoy romping, jumping, and playing in the powdery fluff, especially the little Lhasa Apso as she seems to revert back to her homeland roots for a few joyful moments and I wonder if she sees ancient highland temples in her mind’s eye. I could rejoice that this is a perfect ‘sugar snow,’ the soft blanket that keeps the maple sugar trees at the right temperatures for the sap to flow a little while longer, which means the syrup makers can harvest a little more. Soot-colored juncos dart back and forth across the whitened ground and leave zipper tracks of tiny footprints, and it’s so quiet I can hear their whispered murmurings even as I stand behind closed windows. Welcome to Vermont in the spring!
A poet can use a lot fewer words than I did in that second paragraph, but I think you probably get the point: there’s a lot beneath the surface of what we see. Poetry teaches us the subtleties of life, shows us how to look for them, and shows us possibilities of how to respond. There’s so much more to this day besides the reality of cold and white.
I think poetry helps us slow down. A poem is like a painting we can carry with us at all times, where we are invited to enter into and become one with the image, to see with the eyes and heart of the painter. For one thing, a good poet always leaves room for the reader or listener to add her own images, to make his own observations, to carry on the created piece in his or her own time and space.
Whether through poetry or prose, the poet encourages us to look and see with our eyes, too, rather than telling us what is out there. S/He helps us think for ourselves, s/he invites us to dig deeper, to look for and experience the metaphors that are all around us every day, in every person, in every situation.