April 30, 2015 Tahj Mayes

National Poetry Month

As you may be aware, April is recognized as National Poetry Month and also, Gardening Month. (Two of my favorite things, if you’re keeping count.)

In an effort to reclaim a bit of my life from busyness and encouraged by the reminder of National Poetry Month (#npm), I have been reading poems aloud to my 2 year-old, usually over breakfast. He digs it; I dig it. This is the beginning of a beautiful little tradition for us.

Poetry may not officially be as ubiquitous as it once was, but I don’t buy into the idea that technology or the internet is killing it. Our days are full of poetry, whether we note it or not. We live it; we write it; we read it. Poetry is in our Facebook and Twitter feeds, flitters through our Instagram, and is in our text threads. And of course it’s in the music we listen to, with the exception of pop radio (#lyricssnob). Social media isn’t just meaningless nothings drifting around the web and it isn’t all about the business side of things, either. Not everything written on social media or a blog is poetry, but I see poetic expressions of life all the time. Social media–not unlike poetry–is essentially about connection. Some of us prefer one medium to another, and so poets, like all creatures, must adapt.

In valediction to this spring month, here are two poems, both dealing in some way with nature, the natural extension of garden. Hitting two nails with the same hammer, if you know what I mean. You can find both of these beauts in A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz.

If these poems in any way inspire you to create an enriching tradition in your own life with whatever is calling to you, be it gardening, or (gasp) pop songs, or posting a poem on Twitter 140 characters at a time, then perfect and amen and word to your mother.

 

The first poem is by American poet, Mary Oliver. The second is by Li-Young Lee, an English-writing poet immigrated from Indonesia.

 

THE KINGFISHER

The kingfisher rises out of the black wave
like a blue flower, in his beak
he carries a silver leaf. I think this is
the prettiest world–so long as you don’t mind
a little dying, how could there be a day in your whole life
that doesn’t have its splash of happiness?
There are more fish than there are leaves
on a thousand trees, and anyway the kingfisher
wasn’t born to think about it, or anything else.
When the wave snaps shut over his blue head, the water
remains water–hunger is the only story
he has ever heard in his life that he could believe.
I don’t say he’s right. Neither
do I say he’s wrong. Religiously he swallows the silver leaf
with its broken red river, and with a rough and easy cry
I couldn’t rouse out of my thoughtful body
if my life depended on it, he swings back
over the bright sea to do the same thing, to do it
(as I long to do something, anything) perfectly.

-Mary Oliver-

 


 

 

IRISES

1.
In the night, in the wind, at the edge of rain,
I find five irises, and call them lovely.
As if a woman, once, lay by them awhile,
then woke, rose, went, the memory of hair
lingers on their sweet tongues.

I’d like to tear these petals with my teeth.
I’d like to investigate these hairy selves,
their beauty and indifference. They hold
their breath all their lives
and open, open.

2.
We are not lovers, not brother and sister,
though we drift hand in hand through a hall
thrilling and burning as thought and desire
expire, and, over this dream of life,
this life of sleep, we waken dying—
violet becoming blue, growing
black, black—all that
an iris ever prays,
when it prays,
to be.

Li-Young Lee-

 

What’s your current or old favorite poem about gardening/nature? Or what is your #pocketpoem?

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