September 25, 2008

As if what exists

as if what exists, exists
so that it can be lost
and become precious

Beautiful lines from a poem "In Passing" by winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Lisel Mueller. I found it in the preface to a book of short stories, Rear View, by Peter Duval. (Raving intro to the book by poet, writer, biographer, critic, anthologist (and literary executor for Gore Vidal), Jay Parini, btw.)

Here's the entire poem. Short and sweet but so poetic and packs a punch. This is what poetry is all about!

In Passing

How swiftly the strained honey
of afternoon light
flows into darkness

and the closed bud shrugs off
its special mystery
in order to break into blossom:

as if what exists, exists
so that it can be lost
and become precious

~ Lisel Mueller ~
from her book of poems, Alive Together

More poems by Lisel Mueller in a Book Review of Alive Together.

Leave you with this beautiful prose from famous poets:

A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasure of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause. Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new delight, which have the power of attracting and assimilating to their own nature all other thoughts, and which form new intervals and interstices whose void forever craves fresh food. Poetry strengthens the faculty which is the organ of the moral nature of man, in the same manner as exercise strengthens a limb. A poet therefore would do ill to embody his own conceptions of right and wrong, which are usually those of his place and time, in his poetical creations, which participate in neither. - Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Defense of Poetry.

“During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours, our conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry, the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colours of imagination. The sudden charm, which accidents of light and shade, which moon-light or sunset diffused over a known and familiar landscape, appeared to represent the practicability of combining both.” - S. T. Coleridge, Chapter XIV, Biographia Literaria (1817)

And, Wordsworth, of course, described poetry as the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings," and "emotions recollected in tranquility"; phrases that I heard first in 8th 0r 9th grade from my English teacher - Ramachandran Sir*, who was the one I should credit with me falling in love with the English language and for my literary interests, which have obviously developed and honed continually since then.

I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. - William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads.

* I have no idea if Ramachandran Sir is still around (he was probably in his early 60s in 1984-85) but perhaps appropriate then to dedicate this post to my memories of that which is lost but has became precious; not because I lost it but because I treasure the memories still. (I actually woke up today with memories of my father.... actually woke up with the words "the taste of memories on my tongue" somehow popping in my head! I have more or less given up writing poetry (an endeavor which never really developed further from being an attempt to seek catharsis through writing) but maybe that phrase needs to be developed into a short poem some day!

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