Notebook and Pen

Motion is the rustling in tall grass
Try to define it
Harvested grass does not rustle
All the grasshoppers hide

like a sudden flock of sparrows
departing the wind-line of poplars –

all at once a soul is released,
as if a whirlwind of leaves
decided to quit the tree
and took wing all in one motion

 

POETICS

A poem is a great silence like the ocean. I go to the ocean whenever I can, not only to hear the all-pervasive om of those water, but to hear the silence of myself that is washed up on those shores.

 

This silence is there in poetry, too. It is not in the words of the poem, not in myself, but in the many-feathered flight between. A poem takes place instantaneously, simultaneously, like the flight of many birds.

from Poetry & Motion

Poetry is motion. A poem does not live in the terms of definition or critical analysis. A poem takes flight in interval and connection. A good poem creates its own time and space, which it probes. The movement of a poem is its meaning and the means to experiencing it. In motion from word to word and image to image, it opens meaning. The poet Robert Sund wrote, the good poem has the effect of collapsing all the sides of many separate boxes, to reveal a realm we could all travel through freely

Poetry should ferment. Whether reading or writing a poem, it should be laid aside at a certain moment to allow the transformation that will surprise. It may take years.

Poetry is listening. The Old Latin roots of the word “obedience” are ob (before) and audire (to hear). It is a hearing that comes before the word is spoken. It hears what lies beneath the spoken word. This is an obedience that listens deeply to what wants to be said. In the Arabian Nights we hear its echo – “I hear and obey.” It is an obedience known by those who sit Zen, who pray, who wake at night with small children. Poetry is received by listening deeply.

 

This listening requires that we get ourselves out of the way. This is the sort of listening that one must do to sing – to hear the music and sing that. It is what one must do to live many years with a partner, to speak well in a group, to draw or sculpt, to walk in the woods. Listen, the poem sounds. It is a wave that falls on a far-off shore. To listen to that and write it down is an act of faith, and a faithfulness.

Poetry is quality of attention. Neither style, nor content, nor craft define poetry - only the quality of attention brought by the poet is decisive. Good poetry recreates that quality in the reader. Poetry finds a voice that evokes a response not only to the poem or the poet, but in readers to themselves.

Poetry is breath. Breath is inspiration, alive in the present moment. Breath vitalizes the body; in poetry it is an indwelling spirit that makes the poem come alive. It is present. Breath is the original rhythm.