I live in Northern California wine country. We speak our own language here. We distillate every glass of wine into individual components. If you don’t speak the language, you’re out of luck. Poetry in a glass. Behold.
“Oak broadens the fruit elements of lemon and apricot, adding a brown sugar glow. But the wine remains dry, finishing with an impression of freshly turned earth.”
“The perfume is extraordinarily detailed, suggesting black raspberry preserves, white chocolate, black pepper, tobacco, vanilla and smoke. All these flavors commingle in the mouth. Drinks dry, with dusty tannins.”
Huh? Freshly turned earth? Raspberry, tobacco, vanilla and smoke, in the same swirl on your palate? I taste it and I like it, or I don’t, and move on to the next glass.
I am not an academic in the language of wine or poetry. I don’t know the difference between a quatrain and a cinquain. Ok, one has four lines and the other five, but structure: iambs, trochees and spondees? I’m lost. But, I admire the skill. I shed tears at the sentiment. I laugh out loud. My ire rises at the injustice it hopes to ameliorate.
Is it required that we dissect each word and delve into the poet’s history to discern the meaning of a poem? Will the poem evoke more, or less, if we know the poet is a serial killer, or kind to their mother? Do we taste the oak, the vanilla, and raspberry, or only the chocolate?
Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the U.S. from 2001-2003 offers his response, in part:
Introduction to Poetry
I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it
They begin beating it with a hose To find out what it really means.
On Twitter one meets people from all over the world. I’m not here to argue whether the connections are superficial or long lasting. I’d like to highlight my BFF who has heightened my appreciation for meter and verse, whether I “understand” it or not. I read a lot of books, but not books of poetry. Until now, Pip has changed that. I now seek out poets. Recently, I discovered Mary Oliver’s, The Swan.
Pip Williams lives in Wales. She is the mother of a wee boy. She is astonishingly smart. I can’t keep up with her. She composes a universe of haiku and senryu. She writes for herself, and for those of us who follow her on Twitter. She does not maintain a website. She writes a verse, releases it, and writes another.
Coincidentally, or otherwise, depending on how New Age you feel, I had a Dylan Thomas poem tacked to my bedroom wall all through high school: In My Craft and Sullen Art. My interpretation of this poem is not unlike the way I interpret Pip’s work. She writes for those: who pay no praise or wages/ nor heed my craft or art. That said, many of us heed her craft and art.
Everyday I laugh, I am moved by the beauty of her language, I learn something. I could reprint hundreds that I love. Here are but a few. Seek her out on Twitter: @lordfanny1723
Walking around town afraid I’ll bump into that younger, bemused me Sufic heresy playing with ontology confounding ego No nap today! Wee man’s still vibrating in the key of chocolate Washing the dishes other lights, other kitchens other peoples’ lives Clear stream full of fish swift little leviathans calling me Ishmael A political party, just for rich bastards and we accept this? Across the valley orange streetlights echo the ancient glow of stars Dark, no moon tonight as if seven billion people shut their eyes The wind blows in dusk dust streaming on an edge of running mascara
My 10-year old niece wrote the following haiku. You’ll know, without my dissection of it, that she’s a nature girl obsessed right now with wolves. Nothing makes her happier than being outdoors. Were there wolves in suburban Chicago she would happily follow one to its den. As April is National Poetry Month her class was instructed to write five poems. One day she may be writing one after another, like Pip.
Birds greet the sunlight Wolves welcome the shining moon Fox enjoys the peace
Thanks for listening. And for beautiful snippets of well chosen poetry and prose feast on this tumblr @litverve