from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

breaking the glass

My Poetry School evening sessions have resumed. A starting point question, to which I return alone and with other writers, over and over, is what is poetry for? By now, I've collected 100s or even 1000s of responses to this question; my own personal responses are in the high 30s or 40s.

Two things I come back to, though: poetry is both refuge ('Poetry can save your life': Adrienne Rich); and paradoxically it is also a reminder that poetry, like life itself, is not merely soothing; it does not exist to cocoon us from the hard stuff, nor from confronting and expressing it. 

For many people, poetry brings to a life something that cannot be found elsewhere; something of the soul. It's a necessity, not a luxury. Poetry is an intense way of representing and sharing intense experience. It can blast us into where we need to be, emotionally-, spiritually-, speaking.

I began my session with my monthly Two Rivers group on Saturday with this line from Jane Hirshfield: 'One of the laws of poetry is that no good poem can be wholly safe or wholly pure.'

And I think often of Chase Twichell's words (like Hirshfield, she's a Buddhist poet): 'Poetry is not window-cleaning; it breaks the glass.'

So here's reminder to us all: take a little risk in writing your poem. Veer off the predictable path. Keep us guessing, just a little...


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