10 March 2004

Little Verses, Major Earthquakes

I have an anthology of poetry that I didn't touch for long, until these past few days. One reason I haven't been reading it is as I browsed through the pages, the first time I bought it, some of the poems did not immediately fit my taste. Frederick Nims is right in explaining "when we say we 'love' poetry, it doesn't mean we love the same poetry." I gave it another read and came across little gems of lines.

I was never a fan of Robert Frost. I only respected him for what he had achieved and given to the literate world. My favorite from him was Fire and Ice. Until I read this:

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of the day I rued.
There was a quote preceding the poem in the anthology, from one reader which said, "I think this is a love poem. I feel it is the true story of love." I think I fell in love with Frost after reading this. I could clearly see the color of crow contrasted with snow (and how it made a perfect rime.) How a little and mundane matter as dust can be poetic. How there can never be a day without a saving grace, or simply grace.

Another poem that convinced me Robert Frost is a genius is this one:

Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

That crossed me from sweet things,
The flow of--was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Downhill at dusk?

I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they're gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.

I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
The petal of the rose
It was that stung.

Now no joy but lacks salt,
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.

When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,

The hurt is not enough:
I long for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough
To all my length.
I have read much about what is skyward, seaward, heavenward, but never to earthward. I read this aloud and as I read, I felt like I was back to grade one re-learning what cadence, imagery and tension are all about.

The petal of the rose/ It was that stung. Exactly what poetry is.

Finally, simple and mediocre are not synonymous. There are simple poems that are exceptional, while there are mediocre poems that cannot be anything else, but mediocre. This one is the former:
Dionisio Martinez

To the one who sets a second place at the table anyway.

To the one at the back of the empty bus.

To the ones who name each piece of stained glass projected on a white wall.

To anyone convinced that a monologue is a conversation with the past.

To the one who loses with the deck he marked.

To those who are destined to inherit the meek.

To us.
To us.

Happy reading, happy writing, happy being.

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