I have written a few poems in my life, and I love reading poetry that moves me. The latter gives me an emotional kick or a prickling at the back of my neck, or rarely a feeling as if the top of my head is going to come off. I also write fiction and non fiction and feel that I have a certain grasp and talent with both of those, and do call myself a writer. But a poet? No.
When I read lines like the following, I know myself in the presence of someone who has talent, is a master (or mistress) of the art.
“All of a sudden came the pelicans:
crazy old men in baseball caps who flew
like jackknives and collapsed like fans.” (John Malcom Brinnin)
This fragment is by a poet now dead, who was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but moved to the States with his parents as a child. What appealed to me in the poem was the image – we in Saskatoon know pelicans, after all, and I’ve often stood and watched them, thought about what they make me think of – punk rockers with their tuft of upstanding feathers at the back of their heads.
“All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.
four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the merry deer ran before.” (e.e. cummings)
E.E. Cummings has long been a favourite of mine, particularly this poem. It feels like magic, the images piling one on top of another, beautiful language, hints of mystery creating the story.
“I may feel guilty after a poem
for what is revealed, for what
stands bare when the speaking stops,
for what utters itself with full wings spread
of angel or bat
but I am healed to the saying.
I think it must be.” (Marge Piercy)
Piercy is an American writer, of both poetry and prose (fiction and non fiction). I loved her novel Vida, though don’t like everything she’s written. Still, I am bowled over by her talent, and glad to know she’s still alive.
“Wind turns back the sheets of the field.
What needs to sleep, sleeps there.
What needs to rest.
The door has fallen from the moon.
It floats in the slough, all knob and hinges.” (Lorna Crozier)
Years ago, I took a writing class from Lorna Crozier, and I have always admired her talent, both in writing and teaching. She captures the land and emotions of the prairie like few others.
I don’t know how these poets do it, find the images, put them together in ways that open and illuminate the world. I have difficulty with that. Maybe it’s a matter of practice? If I wrote as much poetry as I do prose, would I get better at it?