May 18th, 2007


Poetry Friday -- Last Lines

Margaret Atwood says, " I don't think I solve problems in my poetry; I think I uncover problems."

What a vexing truth. All that work, and no solution.

It makes me wonder if Atwood's sense of poetry is universal? 
Are poems full of problems, opened up on the table like clam shells, left uncooked and unsalted?

I've been mulling this about, reading.
The stack of books on my bedside table is getting all high and wobbly, and I'm a little unsettled myself. 

Because it's true, I think.
Poems do the work of uncovering.
And often, the grand reveal doesn't happen 'til the very last lines. 
So that, in the end, we have no choice but to sit there with the problem -- an awkard guest come calling. 
We sit there with it, we serve it tea.

",,, and why shouldn't we argue

and sit in the two kitchen chairs, our faces downcast, after I get home,
after what we've done, what we have allowed ourselves to long for?"

"... everything is so quick and uncertain,
       so glancing, so improbable, so real."

"...Outside there are sirens.
Someone's been run over.
The century grinds on."

"...No one hears the tiny sobbing
of the velvet in the drawer."

"...Then I remember:
     death comes before
         the rolling away
             of the stone."

"... nothing I can do will hurry him or promise it. It might be hours or days
before he appears at the door and sits me down and lays his head in my lap."

"...What are you supposed to do 
with all this loss?"

If you read these all together, aloud, your heart will break.
The pain of shedding light, the beauty of revelation. 
The questions, the discovery, the uncovering.

The last lines I use here are from poems by:
Marie Howe, The New Life
Mary Oliver, The Pinewoods
Margaret Atwood, In the Secular Night
Naomi Shihab Nye, The Palestinians Have Given Up Parties
Mary Oliver, At Black River
Marie Howe, More
Margaret Atwood, Down