|I wonder from time to time, how did I get into this business? How improbable, that I should have spent my life writing poetry. Poetry doesn’t appear to make much happen–though in the last several years there has been news that Isis has begun recruiting followers with poetry, which is both frightening and fascinating.
I don’t think poetry could do that in this culture. What it can do is this: push back against the hectic pace of our lives. As a relief to the increasingly public, appearance-driven world of social networking, it offers the possibility of reflection. Poetry can give voice to broad and deep personal experience in a way no other form can. I’ve seen poetry change the lives of twenty-year-olds.
There’s something else. By reading poetry, a person can learn how to read metaphor better, because poetry provides a way of saying one thing and meaning another. As Robert Frost pointed out, people never say exactly what we mean. We talk in metaphor and “hints and indirections”. The philosopher, Steven Pinker, argues that metaphor lies at the heart of all human thinking. And the linguist, George Lakoff has shown how metaphor dominates political speech. Frost said that unless you’re at home in metaphor, you aren’t safe anywhere, because you’re not at home with figurative values. Of course, at the heart of poetry lies metaphor.
If you’d like to slow down and take a few minutes to read poetry, consider ordering Helping the Morning: New and Selected Poems. It is available from many book stores and from Word Farm Press: http://bit.ly/1412FzV
Warm best wishes for a fine fall!
Signs of use, of age, of damage are esteemed
as part of the life of Japanese scrolls.
–Program, Koetsu Exhibition, Philadelphia
Museum of Art
On this scroll I see new tracks
crossing winter fields, cold rain,
river cutting through plains,
night falling. Let me not ask for
untrampled snow. May I love
the moon, no longer full,
but worn to a slice. Bless fragments,
corners, crumbs, and spare parts.
Let them remind me of what
they were, unbroken. May I
stop listening for the wild steps
of morning, which will not scrape
my sill again. I will praise in the rain
what remains of the afternoon.
From Helping the Morning,
Originally published in Poetry
|From the Reviews
“I marvel at the wholeness of Walker’s vision, and how it pits the illumination of insight against the mystery of eternity.” Elaine Terranova
“Her words gleam in the eye, nestle in the ear, take root in the rich dirt of the heart.” Luci Shaw
“Walker’s gift is her willingness, no matter how many times she has seen the sun come up, to regard each time as a fresh beginning.” Mark Jarman
|WHAT I’M READING IN THE SHADE GARDEN
I finished Home, a novel by Marilynne Robinson, last week and immediately began reading it again. It’s that good. For prose, I’ve been navigating around in Renyolds Price’s A Common Room. And poetry: I’ve just ordered seven young Polish poets, hoping to get to know the generation after Milosz and Symborska. I’ll keep you posted. And when you get a chance, let me know what you’re reading.
An Excerpt from The Geography of Memory
Far away, as if through a mist, I hear my husband calling. Swimming up from a dream, I roll over, open my eyes. He’s leaning on one elbow in bed, facing me, softly repeating my name. In the milky gloom, I can barely make out his figure.
“What?” I say. We’re in Paris in a hotel room. That much I remember. I push further down into the warm sheets. I don’t get back to sleep easily.
“I think something’s happened to your mother,” he says.
Sitting bolt upright in the dark, I watch as my husband swabs the floor for his phone. There’s a cold breeze leaking in the closed windows. I pull the duvet around my shoulders and press the stem of my watch, which lights up the dial. It’s two thirty a.m.