June 22nd, 2007


Poetry Friday -- First Lines

A few weeks back, I wrote about the last lines of poems, how they ask questions, reveal problems, uncover grief and loss and hidden holes in the ground.

Ever since, I've been meaning to get back to first lines. 
What happens here, in the beginning, if all the grand epiphanies are saved for the end?

First lines, I think, say, "Here is how I see the world, in this moment..." 
They serve as the poet's manifesto. They are declarations and scene setters.

Frost says that poetry "...begins with a lump in the throat."

I think he's right. The world at this moment is always enough to put a lump in your throat:

" From how many distances am I to arrive..."

"There are no perfect waves..."

"The roldengod and the soneyhuckle,
the sack eyed blusan and the wistle theed..."

"You weren't well or really ill either..."

"Now between your eyes
the furrows shine..."

"The walls of the house are as old as I think of them..."

"Paradise lasts for a day..."

"fortunate man it is not too late...

I like a lump like that last one. Maybe it's never too late.

The first lines I used here are from the poems:
Emergence, W.S. Merwin
9/30, William Carlos Williams
A Nosty Fright, May Swenson
The Embrace, Mark Doty
The Waiting, li-young lee
Old Sound, W.S. Merwin
A Day Like Rousseau's Dream, May Swenson
The Woodthrush, William Carlos Williams