When Death Comes

January 22, 2019

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Mary Oliver

For the young who want to

January 22, 2019

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favourably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Marge Piercy

an unfamiliar world

January 22, 2019

My basic view of the world is that right next to the world we live in, the one we’re all familiar with, is a world we know nothing about, an unfamiliar world that exists concurrently with our own. The structure of that world, and its meaning, can’t be explained in words. But the fact is that it’s there, and sometimes we catch a glimpse of it, just by chance — like when a flash of lightning illuminates our surroundings for an instant.

Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami on Parallel Realities
Interview with Deborah Treisman
The New Yorker 27 August 2018

To write is to discover

January 22, 2019

I have never started a poem whose end I knew. Writing the poem is discovering.

Robert Frost
New York Times, 7 Nov. 1955

the task of poetry

January 22, 2019

The poem is an invention that exists in spite of history…In a time of violence, the task of poetry is in some way to reconcile us to our world and to allow us a measure of tenderness and grace with which to exist…Poetry’s task is to reconcile us to the world — not to accept it at face value or to assent to things that are wrong, but to reconcile one in a larger sense, to return us in love, the province of the imagination, to the scope of our mortal lives.

Meena Alexander
What use is poetry
Address to the Yale Political Union April 23, 2013

Night Below Zero

January 22, 2019

3 AM, the night is absolutely still;
Snow squeals beneath my skis, plumes on the turns.
I stop at the canyon’s edge, stand looking out
Over the Great Valley, over the millions —
In bed, drunk, loving, tending mills, furnaces,
Alone, wakeful, as the world rolls in chaos.
The quarter moon rises in the black heavens —
Over the sharp constellations of the cities
The cold lies, crystalline and silent,
Locked between the mountains.

Kenneth Rexroth