April 1, 2011

Poet for April 1, 2011 - Jane Hirshfield

To celebrate National Poetry Month (April) this year, I will be posting a poem every day; occasionally may have two poems by the same poet. So, in 30 days this month, I hope to have 30 posts about 30 poets, with 1-2 poems by each poet that I have enjoyed over the last few years of reading poetry a lot. There is no method to my selecting the 30 poets and by its very nature having one poem by the poet is like taking a photograph in one corner of the world and asking you to imagine what the Earth looks like.... but one has to start somewhere and this will have to do as anything else as an introduction to poetry! I will, as is my wont, provide many hyperlinks in my posts leading you to other sources of poetry online if you are further interested in reading poetry by these poets.

Today, I start with a quote from a lovely book by the poet Jane Hirshfield which I read last year. I collect quotes about poetry elsewhere and there are many which I find explain why some of us are drawn to poetry but in the end it boils down to this -- humbled and awed by the "inexplicable beauties and mysteries" of life, one alternately pays homage and seeks solace through the music of poetry. In some ways, for some of us, poetry "asserts who we are".
"To speak, and to write, is to assert who we are, what we think. The necessary other side is to surrender these things - to stand humbled and stunned and silent before the wild and inexplicable beauties and mysteries of being." - Jane Hirshfield (p 221, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry". Essay: Writing and the Threshold Life)

Anyways, here's the poem for today:
This Was Once a Love Poem
by Jane Hirshfield

This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.

It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers choosing these shoes,
this scarf or tie.

Once, it drank beer for breakfast,
drifted its feet
in a river side by side with the feet of another.

Once it pretended shyness, then grew truly shy,
dropping its head so the hair would fall forward,
so the eyes would not be seen.

IT spoke with passion of history, of art.
It was lovely then, this poem.
Under its chin, no fold of skin softened.
Behind the knees, no pad of yellow fat.
What it knew in the morning it still believed at nightfall.
An unconjured confidence lifted its eyebrows, its cheeks.

The longing has not diminished.
Still it understands. It is time to consider a cat,
the cultivation of African violets or flowering cactus.

Yes, it decides:
Many miniature cacti, in blue and red painted pots.
When it finds itself disquieted
by the pure and unfamiliar silence of its new life,
it will touch them—one, then another—
with a single finger outstretched like a tiny flame.

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