"I know I am august
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all)
I exist as I am, that is enough."
"Art may not make anything better, but there is some power in recognizing that someone else has felt as you do, that your interiority, which seems especially in grief so unreachable, may in fact share a space with the inner life of another." - Mark Doty
Today, each year, so many of us reflect and think about where we were when we first heard about or saw the unbelievable historical event that has undoubtedly changed our country forever. Ultimately, I think it matters less where we were, what we were doing, how much we remember. What matters more is what followed. How we moved forward. Where we are today.
In that spirit, an article about the place of art in times of tragedy. Poetry matters, people. It does.
Can Poetry Console a Grieving Public? by Mark Doty
In honor of National Poetry month and what I have affectionately come to know as Poetry Blitz Day, a poem:
This week the letter from my mother
is a half-page long, the handwriting
shaking its way across the paper.
She was proud of her penmanship.
Each loop had been perfect, each
word aligned with the next, each T
crossed as if she used a level.
It was her elegance, a dignity
she held between thumb and
forefinger. "Not much to say,"
she writes. "This room is a room.
They will move me to another."
She always writes on Friday.
"Good way to end the week,"
our years connected from there,
upper left corner, to here centered
perfectly. She would fill two pages
with her crisp judgment of a book,
a movie, descriptions of her times
swimming, dancing, going
to hear the "news lady" talk about
the week's events, how she'd done
on the quiz, and what "The Colonel"
had ordered everyone to do: "Feed
the birds! Clean up the leaves
in front of your place! Support
the troops!" Now she writes,
My wife is sleeping on the couch.
It's late afternoon. I watch her
breathing, start to count the breaths,
wonder why, stop. The cat dashes
by. Bees hum in the bee balm.
I pour a cup of coffee, steady it
with milk, stir until it turns from
coal to caramel, the steam rising,
the long evening beginning
to spread itself outside the window.
I look across the room, notice
on the shelf our Scrabble game,
think of the tiles, each letter singular,
able to take its place within a word.
from Practicing to Walk Like a Heron
Wayne State University Press
The quote in the title of this post struck me as light and humorous, but simultaneously truthful, effective, and important. I clicked on the article containing this quote only because of the picture with it - a deep red heart made up of equality symbols - the same symbol that seems to have overtaken my Facebook news feed in the last two days.
The author of the article has many important things to say, about bullying in schools, about kids acting as mirrors of the adults around them, about parents and how they should react to the news that their child is gay, about Christians and how they interpret the Bible - but it all really boils down to this quote. This simple, beautiful quote.
"Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated."
As a teacher, especially one at community colleges in both urban and suburban environments, I interact with a wide variety of people on a regular basis. My students and colleagues are comprised of nearly every ethnic and cultural background I can think of. They are a seemingly equal mixture of male and female, gay and straight. Some are wealthy. Some very poor. Most somewhere in between. They are young and old. Some have children. Not all are married. Some are brilliant, exceptional students. Others struggle and show a quieter promise. Some may never succeed academically, despite my best efforts to guide them. I enjoy working with most of my students. Some are challenging. They can be standoffish, or abrasive, or just reserved and difficult to read. I can't lie - when the semester ends, there are always a few students who I am relieved to say goodbye to. In 16 week increments, I learn about these people. You can only know so much about a person after 16 weeks, especially in a classroom environment. But I see enough to know that each person, even those I find most challenging as students, are complex, remarkable, wonderful people. They are representative of the whole of our culture. They are people to be celebrated. Every one.
Can't quite put my finger on why, but I really enjoyed today's Poem-A-Day in honor of National Poetry Month.
Postcard to I. Kaminsky from a Dream at the Edge of the Sea
by Cecilia Woloch
I was leaving a country of rain for a country of apples. I hadn't much time. I told my beloved to wear his bathrobe, his cowboy boots, a black patch like a pirate might wear over his sharpest eye. My own bags were full of salt, which made them shifty, hard to lift. Houses had fallen, face first, into the mud at the edge of the sea. Hurry, I thought, and my hands were like birds. They could hold nothing. A feathery breeze. Then a white tree blossomed over the bed, all white blossoms, a painted tree. "Oh," I said, or my love said to me. We want to be human, always, again, so we knelt like children at prayer while our lost mothers hushed us. A halo of bees. I was dreaming as hard as I could dream. It was fast—how the apples fattened and fell. The country that rose up to meet me was steep as a mirror; the gold hook gleamed.
Kind, unsolicited words about my World Literature 2 class:
"I absolutely love your class. I love our readings and I love how you go into so much detail about each and every one of them without making it terribly boring, which is a very refreshing thing."
"Let us remember... that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both."
-Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry Magazine
"The reinvention, the making of a poetry for our time, is the only thing that makes poetry matter. And that means, literally, making poetry MATTER, that is making poetry that intensifies the matter or materiality of poetry--acoustic, visual, syntactic, semantic. Poetry is very much alive when it finds ways of doing things in a media-saturated environment that only poetry can do, but very much dead when it just retreads the same old same old."
BA in English