Any Poem is a Feast

…to which you have a response.

In writing a poem, you feel a certain “release” and when you read or listen to poetry, you may experience a visceral understanding of this poetic language.  Don’t take my word for it.  Spend some time reading the poetry that attracts you.  There are so many poets, past and present, each with a unique voice.  Chances are that you are going to find one that resonates with you.  Or, that your own poet’s voice is straining to be heard.  Give it the opportunity…there is free verse, personal poetry and all varieties of poetic form (or not) to pour your poetry into.  It’s a sweet exploration, isn’t it?

Reading a poem, it is best to sit with it for awhile.  Until the thrum of it touches your being.  A poem is a meditation if you allow it to be.  A great poem can almost be too much to savor in one sitting.  And certainly, if you read many poems in a row, you are going to walk away from the experience feeling pleasantly or unpleasantly glutted, like after you’ve just finished a holiday feast!

It is recommended that you portion out your poetry.  Let one poem follow you around throughout your day like a little dog sniffing at your heels. You might discover that one poem could be quite enough.

Here’s one for today:

The Well of Grief
by David Whyte

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief

turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe

will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else.

Listening to David Whyte reading his poem many times over, I have a sense of “wafting”.  With each repetition, I descend into the “well of grief”, traveling through the layers of the poem and within myself.

Poetry has this power and provides this opportunity.

Contemplation:
If this poem has appeal for you, do let it follow you around throughout the day.  If not this one, find a poem that touches you and claim it as your “loyal pet for the day.”

 

 

 

 

Is Poetry Accessible?

Some years ago, I encountered the poet/author, Gerald Stern. In this video clip, Stern recites two poems.  Each one evokes a very different feeling for me, the listener.  The first poem relates an event in the poet’s life and his response to it.  When briefly introducing his second poem, Stern states that it is “a more formal poem.  It almost rhymes.”

In my first two listenings, I didn’t understand all of the nuances of the second poem although it gave me goosebumps.  It touched something inside of me that does understand. Do you sometimes get the telltale goosebumps when reading certain poetry? That is your body’s involuntary response, a type of recognition.

No one can really tell you what you should get from a poem, painting or other work of art. When studying a painting in an art gallery, each viewer has his/her own “takeaway”. While there are ways to evaluate a work of art or a poem, it is not always necessary to deconstruct one. It feels right to me to sense my way into a painting or a poem…especially one that grabs me in an emotional or visceral way.

As a poet, there could be the tendency to want to analyze a poem you particularly like.  However, that can come later, after you’ve had your initial response and savored the essence of the poem. Listening to Stern read his poetry at least four times, I was struck by the way that he “occupies his poem” when reading it.

PROMPT:
What are your feelings after listening to each of the poems that Gerald Stern read?  Quiet yourself and listen a second time, a third time or more. Did you find his poetry accessible or relatable to your life in some way? Listening to poetry is an art in and of itself. Giving poetry your full attention, receptivity, is a good practice. You don’t need to comment or have a rebuttal ready.  If you are reading poetry in a circle, unless it is an agreed upon critiquing circle, your best response upon hearing a poem is to say “thank you.”