Join me for National Poetry Month

“Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”Audre Lorde (1934-1992)

Dear readers,

I have always believed that poetry has a place in our daily lives, that it should have a strong presence beyond our high school English class  or the often-confined literary subculture where it seems to thrive. Although my day often seem saturated with texts and tweets, stacks of periodicals and overflowing RSS feeds, it is poetry I turn to at all hours, for every occasion, to “give name to the nameless so it can be thought.” It is the images and lyricism, the language and the details of poems that help me mediate this baffling and broken and beautiful world.

One of the greatest pleasures in my reading of poetry is sharing works that resonate with me. And so I invite you to slow down for a few minutes whenever you can this month and read a poem–or 30. As I’ve done for the last three years, I will be posting a poem by a different writer each day. Except for this once, there will be no rambling discussion, just unadulterated verse.

Toward the end of his life, the formidable poet, physician, and red wheelbarrow driver William Carlos Williams wrote a long, meditative poem , “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower,” for his wife. I will spare you the longer excerpt (though I urge you to click and read) because I’ve already talked too much today, but I will leave you with the last few lines because they encompass, in less words and more beautiful language, why I believe poetry is vital to our lives.

My heart rouses
		thinking to bring you news
				of something
that concerns you
		and concerns many men.  Look at
				what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
		despised poems.
				It is difficult
to get the news from poems
		yet men die miserably every day
				for lack
of what is found there.
		Hear me out
				for I too am concerned
and every man
		who wants to die at peace in his bed
				besides.

I was your nightgown

“Young Love”

by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

What about all this writing?

O “Kiki”
O Miss Margaret Jarvis
The backhandspring
I: clean
clean
clean: yes . . New York

Wrigley’s, appendicitis, John Marin:
skyscraper soup—

Either that or a bullet!

Once
anything might have happened
You lay relaxed on my knees—
the starry night
spread out warm and blind
above the hospital—

Pah!

It is unclean
which is not straight to the mark—

In my life the furniture eats me

the chairs, the floor
the walls
which heard your sobs
drank up my emotion—
they which alone know everything

and snitched on us in the morning—

What to want?

Drunk we go forward surely
Not I

beds, beds, beds
elevators, fruit, night-tables
breasts to see, white and blue—
to hold in the hand, to nozzle

It is not onion soup
Your sobs soaked through the walls
breaking the hospital to pieces
Everything
—windows, chairs
obscenely drunk, spinning—

white, blue, orange
—hot with our passion
wild tears, desperate rejoinders
my legs, turning slowly
end over end in the air!

But what would you have?

All I said was:
there, you see, it is broken
stockings, shoes, hairpins
your bed, I wrapped myself round you—

I watched.

You sobbed, you beat your pillow
you tore your hair
you dug your nails into your sides

I was your nightgown
I watched!

Clean is he alone
after whom stream
the broken pieces of the city—
flying apart at his approaches

but I merely
caressed you curiously
fifteen years ago and you still
go about the city, they say
patching up sick school children

I feel that I would like to go there

I’m always in awe of William Carlos Williams who was not only a stunning, revolutionary poet but also a respected doctor for more than 40 years.

“The Widow’s Lament in Springtime”

Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirtyfive years
I lived with my husband.
The plumtree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turn away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.