my birthday present

my birthday present
My awesome birthday present 1/26/11 (see story under my first post)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Poetry is also .....


Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of

I who don't know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can't find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

~ Denise Levertov
from Poems 1960-1967, New Directions Publishing Corp.

Introduction to Poetry
Billy Collins
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

from The Apple that Astonished Paris, 1996
University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Ark.


Jayne said...

When I teach Composition to the women in the SMART Program [Single Mothers Achieving Real Triumph] at Lakeland Community College, we start every class with a poem from Garrison Keilor's book called "Good Poems." At first, the women try to figure out "what it means" and what poetry is. At first, they struggle to read out loud. By the end of the semester, it amazes me to see which poems they pick and how much they love poetry. What is poetry for these struggling and disadvantaged women, survivors in every sense of the word? It is freedom. It is an open door to a powerful world of language.

pkcyphert said...

I am listening to Lit by Mary Karr right now and I know you read it. Remember when she talks about reading 2 poems to the mentally challenged women she cared for and 80% of the time they chose the "good" poem, in that it was written by an established poet. Perhaps there is something about a really good poem that we recognize instinctually. As for that book, I am enjoying it so much because Karr's style is so fascinating to listen to. Not sure what she does, but each sentence is almost poetic in that she writes so colorfully and with such powerful words. What did you think of it?

pkcyphert said...

As for the two poems, I liked The Secret because it reinforces the idea that the reader may get something from a poem that the author may not have intended. Thus, another good reason for writing poetry rather than directing stating your thoughts in prose.
I remember reading "Introduction to Poetry" years ago and the images stuck with me so clearly that I was able to find it just by googling some of the memorable lines. I love it!

marie-josé said...

Denise Levertov's "The Secret" and Billy Collins "Introduction to Poetry" are the perfect pair. It looks like these two poems have made love for a long time and should ask each other's hand in marriage.

How elusive is meaning. Both poems reflect on that. How much we want to lock words into some zone of comfort. Know all the secrets. Until we realize that looking for this type of comfort is like putting our mind in a cage. As Jayne said, this is about the opposite: freedom. That's where we should seek comfort. In the seeking, in the questioning.

Kandinksi, one of the great artists (and theorist) of the 20th century thought that the supreme creative state was "to be a child again." In good part because this freedom is innate to the child.

In conclusion, if this is about freedom, perhaps these two poems shouldn't get married after all.