For the past month, I have been consumed by poetry. Constantly, I am thinking about it, writing with words that rhyme or follow a cadence in my head. Poetry. The imaginative craft of writing where words create images and emotions and depth of life. And, while I am grateful, it has been such an odd experience.
For I have no formal training as a writer. Educated, I am. At first degreed in the sciences of nursing and child health. Instead, my call was to attend to nature. Subsequently, and more recently, degreed again to learn the ways of preserving and conserving our earth. For whom? Our children. The degrees, although disparate, do work contiguously and collaboratively together. For what is more important to our childrens’ health than a healthy world, a healthy earth? Nothing.
Without training but with a love for words and a love for creating, it is a void within my soul that poetry fills. So, I pursue it like a need for water in the parched desert sand.
As with most of my interests in life, my quest to write poetry comes at a cost. The cost is to write poems as best as I can. This feeds the consumption and compulsion to write. I search for texts that will teach me the ways of a poet. Few, I have found.
Within the last year, as an environmental educator working at the time of Mary Oliver’s death, I was asked numerous times about her poetry. Did I read it? Do I know it? Which poem of hers is my favorite? Other than knowing hers was the name of a famous American Poet, I knew nothing. I felt ashamed as my inquirers looked at me with incredulousness. How can an environmentally connected person not know Oliver? Ah, I know why – I was educated not in the arts but in the sciences. These are not mutually exclusive, I know, but a reason none-the-less.
Recently, this shame drove me to seek Oliver’s work. At the same time, as mentioned above, I was seeking texts to explain to me some (any) of the rules of poetry. A quick visit to the bookstore last week led me to purchase Oliver’s, A Poetry Handbook (1994).
While reading, it was unenjoyable. I felt I was in a stern college professor’s classroom where no one’s poetry would be acceptable. There are rules for poetry but the enforcement of the rules are lax and arbitrary. This is fortunate for a not so talented poet such as myself. But still, reading the text did not make me like Oliver, I am sorry to say. She seemed harsh and judgmental in her tone and guidance. Still, there were bits and pieces I could relate to as a teacher of words – using mentor texts to model poetry, connecting students to the small, awe-inspiring pieces of nature that surround us each day, and practicing to become better at poetry (or, anything for that matter).
Today, I sought to find some of her poems. Since despite reading her handbook, I still had not read her “nature” poetry or anything other than this handbook that she wrote. I found a website, literary-arts.org/archive/maryoliver, that offered a poetry reading from Oliver herself in early 2008.
After listening to Oliver for only 11 minutes of the broadcast, I was struck with not only her gift as a poet, but more importantly her sense of humor as a person. I would highly recommend listening to the broadcast, especially since it is poet, herself, you are hearing.
My consumption continues. Last night, I read Frost and a few words from William Wordsworth. As with any writing, reading informs. The words are consumed, continuing to nourish my poetry.
I still find it odd. But, welcome.
Today is Poetry Friday! Our host for this week’s round up is Susan Bruck at Soul Blossom Living. Thank you for hosting, Susan! For more inspiring poetry please visit her page.
The poetry I’ve been reading: Addonizio, K. & Laux, D. (1997). The Poet’s Companion. A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry.
Robert Frost, (1959). You Come Too. Favorite Poems for Readers of all ages.
Mary Oliver, (1994). The Poetry Handbook.
Vardell, S. & Wong, J. (2020). Hop to It: Poems to Get You Moving.