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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Poetry and Sarcasm Don't Mix

One of my goals as a mother is to expose my baby to everything beneficial and healthy, even if I don't particularly enjoy it. So yesterday I broke out an old book of poetry, thinking I would read her a couple of poems while she scribbled on her AquaDoodle (thanks Uncle Steve). I started reading Mary Oliver's "You Are Standing at the Edge of the Woods," and all of the sudden, I started to cry. Now, I am four months pregnant and not entirely unemotional right now, but that's an odd reaction. And I remembered that poetry has a way of making me burst into tears. I wouldn't say that I love poetry, but I went through the requisite poetry stage when I was about 14. You know, girls, the stage where you would write hearfelt if painfully rhymed verses about life and love, or what you imagine life and love might be about, based on movies.

I have had a bad experience with poetry. In school one time I was forced to write a poem by a well-meaning English teacher, so my friends and I decided to cook up the cheesiest poem we could think of. I don't remember when this was - I was old enough to be dabbling in sarcasm, but young enough to think this idea was really cool. I still remember one verse: "Soaring high with dreamer's knowledge / Of the worlds that lie before." Awesome. So I turn it in, and of course, my teacher enters it in a contest, which it, of course, won. (Did you read the part about "dreamer's knowledge?" That's gold.) My prize was that I had to read it in front of the whole school. Worst punishment for goofing off in class ever.

So this blog is supposed to be devoted to making stuff and general craftiness, but today I just wanted to share this Mary Oliver poem. The tip of the day is to try something that's good for you, even if you don't think you like it. And don't get sarcastic when you're forced to write a poem. It will come back and bite you.

You Are Standing at the Edge of the Woods

You are standing at the edge of the woods
at twilight
when something begins
to sing, like a waterfall

pouring down
through the leaves. It is
the thrush.
And you are just

sinking down into your thoughts,
taking in
the sweetness of it -- those chords,
those pursed twirls -- when you hear

out of the same twilight
the wildest red outcry. It pitches itself
forward, it flails and scabs
all the surrounding space with such authority

you can't tell
whether it is crying out on the
scarp of victory, with its hooked foot
dabbed into some creature that now

with snapped spine
lies on the earth -- or whether
it is such a struck body itself, saying

The thrush
is silent then, or perhaps
has flown away.
The dark grows darder.

The moon,
in its shining white blouse,
And whatever that wild cry was

it will always remain a mystery
you have to go home now and live with,
sometimes with the ease of music, and sometimes in silence,
for the rest of your life.

1 comment:

  1. I'm cracking up. I wrote a whole book of poetry once complete with illustrations. My mom found it a few years back when she was cleaning out the garage, and I was so embarrassed but couldn't stop laughing at the same time. It was really bad. And I won an essay contest when I was a junior in kind of the same light--totally goofing off and wrote the cheesiest suck-up essay I possibly could. It totally won and I got an A+. Too funny. Hope you're feeling good. I relate to the whole bursting into tears at a moments' notice--did that last night :)