Tuesday, March 25, 2014

that you love what you are

Lines for Winter

by Mark Strand

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself —
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

Mark Strand on reading poetry:

"The language of a poem is meant to be meditated on. You clear a psychic space for poetry that’s different from the one you clear for prose. It’s a space in which words loom large. And this cleansed psychic space that readies itself for a poem is really one in which the poem is both read and heard."

"Well, if you spend a lot of time alone, particularly if you’re thinking about your life, or other people’s lives, you’re already used to the space I’m talking about. There are certain painters I know to whom the language of poetry means a great deal. And it may be because these people spend a lot of time in front of canvases, alone, with nobody to talk to, that they’re prepared: they’re ready to take the poem in. Their minds are not full of a lot of noise and clutter and unfulfilled desire. I mean, you have to be willing to read poetry; you have to be willing to meet it halfway—because it won’t go any further than that if it’s any good. A poem has its dignity, after all. I mean, a poem shouldn’t beg you to read it; it’s pathetic, if that’s the case. Some poets fear that they won’t be heard unless they flatter the reader, go ninety percent of the way, do it all for the reader. But that’s pathetic."
{from an interview in The Paris Review}

"Lines from Winter" seems appropriate, even though technically it's spring. Snow predicted here again this evening and more through the week. And it's now that you must repeat, tell yourself, to go on. To love what you are.

I like what Strand says about making a psychic space to read a poem. That one needs to come to a poem clear, clean, open.

This is why writing poetry is so difficult. To clear all that space around you before you can even sit down to write. To get rid of the voices, the noise in one's head, the clamouring. A monumental task, really. And the thing is it looks like you're doing exactly nothing, from the outside. Sometimes, mostly, it even feels like you're doing nothing.

When someone asks a poet how she spent her day, the proper response might be, I was cleansing a psychic space.

Of course, the trouble being, there's no money in such a task.

To go on writing poetry. Writing anything. What madness?

I keep coming back to the space of the kitchen table. The morning light. This moment of being suddenly awake, witnessing the sun bathing whatever happens to be there. Waiting. Hoping.

I thought I knew a little about the light but this early morning late winter light has me questioning everything.


  1. I am not sure what I love more here. Your wise words or this late winter light. Both speak of truths. Beautiful post, beautiful photos.

    1. Thank you Cathy. Your blog is lovely too! Just had a look.

  2. Excellent.. Excellent... I went through this page while listening to slow, calm music.
    I do not know how to thank you for the words, the ideas, the atmosphere, and
    especially the pictures, the colors... It is so inspiring, enlivening, greeting.... Peaceful.
    Many good thanks indeed!


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