Before us now the edge of the earth,
below us the nearly endless cold.
Around us nothing but shimmering
the miles of empty and sparkling blue.
For a few hours, the sail fills on
toward infinity. Shadows of
our delicate bodies ebb and flow
across the deck of our delicate boat.
What if the beautiful days, the good
and pacific temperate moments,
weren’t just lovely, but everything?
What if I could let it fall away
in the wake, that ache to extract
meaning from vastness?
Let this suffice; the ease of thinking
it all goes on, whether we’re here
to see it or not. The splashing waves,
the suntipped gulls arcing across
the radiant world.
—Kirsten Dierking, “Sailing on Lake Superior” (via Writer’s Almanac)
Tonight I want to say something wonderful
for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith
in their legs, so much faith in the invisible
arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path
that leads to the stairs instead of the window,
the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror
I love way that sleepwalkers are willing
to step out of their bodies into the night,
to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,
palming the blank spaces, touching everything.
Always they return home safely, like blind men
who know it is morning by feeling shadows.
And always they wake up as themselves again.
That’s why I want to say something astonishing
like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.
Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs
flying through the trees at night, soaking up
the darkest beams of moonlight, the music
of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches.
And now our hearts are thick black fists
flying back to the glove of our chests.
We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.
We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-
walkers who rise out of their calm beds
and walk through the skin of another life.
We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness
and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.
—Edward Hirsch, “For the Sleepwalkers” (via Inward Bound Poetry)
I am convinced that memory has a gravitational force. It is constantly attracting us. Those who have a memory are able live in the fragile present moment. Those who have none don’t live anywhere.
—Patricio Guzmán, Nostalgia for the Light
We all carry so very much around with us - hope, fear, joy, sadness, compassion, jealousy, love, hate, patience, selfishness - in these tiny little brains of ours. We are, often, simply over-matched; bombarded by external stimuli, beset by endless internal monologues. Things happen to us and we hold on to them, gathering them up to create the memories that eventually tell us about ourselves, about who we are and where we’ve been. Our mind has to keep all these things, an infinity of moments. And, in such a way, do we each create our own lives.
— Chad Perman, “I Wish I’d Stayed, Too”
But sadness is also beautiful, maybe because it rings so true and goes so deep, because it is about the distances in our lives, the things we lose, the abyss between what the lover and the beloved want and imagine and understand that may widen to become unbridgeable at any moment, the distance between the hope at the outset and the eventual outcome, the journeys we have to travel, including the last one out of being and on past becoming into the unimaginable: the moth flown into the pure dark. Or the flame.
Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone.
I write poetry because I can’t disobey the impulse; it would be like blocking a spring that surges up in my throat. For a long time I’ve been the servant of the song that comes, that appears and can’t be buried away. How to seal myself up now?…It no longer matters to me who receives what I submit. What I carry out is, in that respect, greater and deeper than I, I am merely the channel.
The cities shatter.
The earth is nothing but dust.
Only one thing can unify them—love.
—Adonis, from “The Desert” in The Pages of Day and Night (translated by Samuel Hazo)
Being a poet means that I have already written but that I have actually written nothing. Poetry is an act without a beginning or an end. It is really a promise of a beginning, a perpetual beginning.
—Adonis, The Pages of Day and Night (translated by Samuel Hazo)
In Winnipeg, a fifteen-year-old once scribbled:
I want to write something
one will question and then change his religion.
—Gillian Sze, from “Blood Sign #2”
I love many poets. Here are my top 5:
Here is a list of writers and books that I recommend: