Full disclosure: I meant to post this last week when it still was National Poetry Month, but last week got the better of me. And even though National Poetry Month might not be a timely topic right now, poetry itself is timeless.
Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? For me, it’s one of those things that I know which still surprises me every time it comes around. This year I got a wild hair (recently, I’ve been very inspired to initiate new projects that keep me away from my writing — just wait, there’s more to come) to post a poem on my social media every day. I’m not much of a social media poster, so it was going to be a challenge but why not give it a try.
I went on a hunt for my poetry collection, digging books out of various places (yes, some were in the garage). I managed to post almost every day through April 21. Because I hadn’t started out in a very organized manner, some days I would spend a few hours browsing the collection to find something that spoke to the day.
I did find some treasures in my hunt and I’m going to share them with you here.
may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old
may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it’s Sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young
and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile
e.e. cummings, from 100 Selected Poems
I saw the two starlings
coming in toward the wires.
But at the last,
just before alighting, they
turned in the air together
and landed backwards!
that’s what got me—to
face into the wind’s teeth.
William Carlos Williams, from Selected Poems
Weight of Abundance
On days when sun blazes hills awake,
when still damp earth aches dark possibilities,
when crooked teeth of dilapidated barns
and crumbling stucco of lost missions
hum with stories they cannot forget,
I look at my freckled hands and try to find
a cartography for this desire to know
that seems stitched into me, into any
who live where one wakes to a horizon
that is continually blurred by low fog.
Stories are as abundant as the trees
and vines that are repeatedly heavy
with fruit. What to dig up? What is enough?
In a garden so thick with weeds, sustenance
bleeds with what is pressing upon it. So
days slur past, fat and happy, until
the eye sights it driving past, or the hoe
upturns the hidden artifact.
Iris Jamahl Dunkle, from There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air
*fun fact: I came to possess this book at a conference (Association of Writers and Writing Programs). I had designed the booth for one of the lead sponsors and needed a pass to supervise the install, so why not go back while the conference was in full swing. I met Iris and we talked about northern California and the biography of Charmian Kittredge (Jack London’s wife) that she was working on (I love biographies about interesting historical women written by women). I bought her collection, put it on my shelf, and forgot about it until this project. Better late than never, it is really a lovely volume (and, it turns out the Kittredge biography is coming out this fall).
**synchronicity: the day that I posted this poem I had been journaling about how there are so many wonderful things to do and to learn and how it can be hard to pick where to invest your time and energy (which is the raison d’etre behind this blog — to explore a lot of things a little bit; to look at the little things hiding between big things). Then I opened the book to this poem which perfectly expressed what I had just been noodling.
The Somnambulist’s Handbook (In memory of James Tate)
By accident, night fell and scraped its knees
against the ragged edge of the horizon.
We called the oozing blood sunset.
I pushed it, and night fell. It spilled its ink
all over everything. The goddamn moon
still shined though, as bright as my rage.
The older you get, the more you fall, night.
As regular as clockwork, the sun goes
then down you come again, all bruised.
After night fell, stars danced around its head
like in the old cartoons. Right afterwards
we both blacked out, til morning came.
Are you drunk on your own beauty again?
Keep falling like that and it will be lights out
for good. Night, don’t pretend you can’t hear!
Imagine night never falling again.
Sun, pure witness. So let night take the fall,
though we’re the ones who need the rest.
Night fell. Someone called the police, who came
with guns drawn, shouting “Stand down!” Shots were fired.
Black, poor night never had a chance.
Succumbing to the armies of despair,
night fell. The terms of its surrender were
to free us all to dream again.
Amazing, how night can fall without sound—
no scream, so silently we hear wolves howl,
forever in awe of its grace.
Rafael Campo, 2016 Bat City Review
What I was reminded of from trying to play along with National Poetry Month is that poetry is fun and that I should make a little bit more time in my life for it.