Thursday, May 18, 2006


Every Saturday morning, I go to my cafe writing spot while half of the world is still sleeping off their week and the other industrious souls are grocery shopping, waxing the kitchen floor, and changing the car's oil in the driveway. The poetry section of the bookstore is my first stop--where I select a volume of poems at random and carry it to my table. Flicking open to a page I see a turn of phrase and copy it into my notebook, citing the poet and book so I can always find my way back. Then, I leap--out of my own head, following the prompt wherever it takes me from trees becoming lovers, to birdcages, to bitter birds, to limbs uncoiling like smooth rope, to the break in the page like a curved neck bowed in elegant prayer. Here, I find poets as muses, inspiring--as parents, comforting--as stab wounds, scarring. I could trace the lineage of my literary family--journal the travels down printed paths. I could dissect one poem so deeply--packed with meaning as it is--that it would be on the far side of a microscope lens, and perhaps some would say, a little less alive with the pinned down edges.

When I take on a new poet--a hastily discovered artisan of these same words we all use to fight, to break, to lie...the affair consumes me. I don't just want the one book, I want them all. I don't just want the poems, I want their story...their region...their context. The book goes with me to the doctor's office, making heaven out of all of that the the bedside table. For a while, I think of marriage with these words--of how no one else will ever write their way into my heart like this. But then, another Saturday rolls around and I notice the glint of light on the spine of another book in the poetry section. Before I even know what I'm doing, I have those pages spread open and I'm drowning again in another Siren's song.

I stumbled over Linda Pastan some years back with a book title, Heroes in Disguise, seducing me as I stood there, minding my own business. She and I still meet up often--I just cannot leave her when she writes things like this...

A New Poet

Finding a new poet
is like finding a new wildflower
out in the woods. You don't see

its name in the flower books, and
nobody you tell believes
in its odd color or the way

its leaves grow in splayed rows
down the whole length of the page. In fact
the very page smells of spilled

red wine and the mustiness of the sea
on a foggy day--the odor of truth
and of dying.

And the words are so familiar,
so strangely new, words
you almost wrote yourself, if only

in your dream there had been a pencil
or a pen or even a paintbrush,
if only there had been a flower.

--Linda Pastan (1991)--

Good to know I'm not the only one breaking open against the undeniable prowess of poetry. For those who say they don't like reading poems, I say simply, you haven't met the one yet. Somewhere a book stands up a little bit taller on the dusty shelf...until the day you just happen to pass by.


Blogger Dana said...

What a great affair you are having with poetry. I love your idea of taking a line from a poem and using it as a prompt to write each week. I might just have to steal that idea myself.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

What a beautiful entry and I LOVE that poem. It's a favorite now. I'll be back later to jot in down in a notebook. Thanks for sharing. Glad you enjoyed Anita Endrezze. She is amazing!

9:35 AM  
Blogger jim said...

A wonderful excursion here, and into and through one of my favorite poets as well. Thank you for your meditations on Pastan!

10:01 AM  
Blogger liz elayne said...

I feel like singing Yes, YES, YES! after reading your words today. This is so true. People haven't met "the one" yet.
I love that you spend Saturday morning surrounded by poets and writing your own words. (The image "then, I leap" stands out to me and inspires. thank you.)

10:26 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Poetry as a love affair... so true... going from one to another, lingering, devouring, then moving on. but always we come back to our early loves. that poem was just delicious....

10:54 AM  
Blogger Amber said...

What a peaceful Saturday tradition. Can I come? I am still looking for just 'the one'.


12:16 PM  
Anonymous Diana said...

I came here to thank you for your comment on my blog, and now I'm thanking you also for sharing your Saturday ritual. I can't wait to try it.

Lovely blog you've got here; I'll be back!

2:47 PM  
Blogger sage said...

wonderful poem; yes, we love words don't we? food for the soul...
thank you for sharing! and thanks for your comments as well.


2:59 PM  
Blogger January said...

Finding a new poet (or a blog) is exactly like what Pastan describes. Thank you for sharing Pastan with us!

3:34 PM  
Blogger bb said...

Thank you for sharing the details of your ravishing love affair. I was swooning!

And it may well be at a tangent, and very literal minded, but with:

you almost wrote yourself, if only in your dream there had been a pencil

makes me think that I never dream that I'm writing. Not that I remember or not yet at least. And I rarely dream I that I am a mother, or wonder who is looking after my sons.

And yet writing and mothering are the constants of my waking life.

Any thoughts?

4:22 PM  
Blogger Catherine said...

That's a lovely post and it sounds like a great way to write poetry. I may have to try that.
Thanks for visiting my blog.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Joy Eliz said...

this whole post is one big beautiful leaves me with a peaceful calm...Thank you!

11:03 PM  
Blogger Endment said...

Thank you for the wonderful words you put before us! A true gourmet feast!

Thank you for the poem - it is perfect for my day!

7:07 AM  
Blogger kerrdelune said...

Lovely, can there be too much poetry in one's life? I think not - the world is made of stories and songs and poems which describe our journey.

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:52 AM  
Anonymous Lia said...

This is such a lovely post. Your saturday ritual is about to be adopted althoug I am going to rediscover the stach of poetry books on my bookshelf for a while.

Will definately be browsing by again.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Deb R said...

This is such a wonderful poem and a wonderful post about it.

I know I ran across a poem by Linda Pastan for the first time recently and I remember I liked it but now I don't remember where I read it. I must go searching and re-read it!

I love your tree root photo above too! (doubling up on comments so I don't have to type the word verification thingy twice!)

8:11 PM  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

Oohhh- I may want to sneak out on a Saturday and try this.

Thank you for sharing this and the poem-terrific and inspiring

9:29 PM  
Blogger kaleidoscope said...

I like the mixing of plant/book imagery in the poem. How delightful! Thank you for sharing your Saturday ritual. As a prompt I write down single words or phrases that I overhear or read, then I respond to them at a later time. I like the idea of taking a line from a poem. Someone once told me that we can perhaps "rev the engine" at the beginning of a poem when we are warming up to it which is perhaps why I often end up discarding the first lines of something I'm working on...

6:32 PM  

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