Sunday last I relished the time blathering and sharing poems and poetry with those who came to the first of the three Poetry classes in the Forum time this October. It was a delicious class because we focused on what is awkward or strange or curious or difficult about reading and listening to poems.
There is an awkwardness in reading poetry, and part of that was addressed in the short video clip of Naomi Shihab Nye talking about how the very awkwardness of poems, the ways in which they differ from our ordinary daily speech, forces us to slow down, to listen more slowly, to take time to read and listen again – the very choice to read poems in this slow way is a form of meditation, a way of listening into the world as Lectio Divina slows down reading the scriptures into times of prayer and meditation.
I failed to copy down for the class the final poem read by Naomi Shihab Nye, “The Art of Disappearing”, and will add now here:
The Art of Disappearing
When they say Don’t I know you?
When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
If they say We should get together
It’s not that you don’t love them anymore.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.
When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.
Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.
“The Art of Disappearing” by Naomi Shihab Nye from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems.
Much more we could talk about how poems rearrange the world of our experience in words liberated into imagination, into words performing like the performers in the Cirque de Soleil, astonishing in haunting and hilarious and ever new configurations of the human body, the human imagination, the rollick of words when set free to dosey-do with one another.
Next Sunday we’ll be looking on into religious poetry, whatever that is, and the poetics of religion.
The liturgy is full of poetry, of course, and the virtues, as well as limitations, of the poetry of liturgy we’ll explore, and look further into religion as a home for poetry. Church folks, like myself, and Stuart and the Bishop Rob and more appeal to poems and poetry to somehow complete and embody our Christian lives into the world – and why is that?
I want to give you a poem to consider as a way of feeling into your own experience, your own body, a company of unlikely resurrection. From Mark Doty’s collection of poems, Deep Lane:
Late August morning I go out to cut
spent and faded hydrangeas – washed
greens, russets, troubled little auras
of sky, as if these were the very silks
of Versailles, mottled by rain and ruin
then half-restored, after all this time….
When I come back with my handful
I realize I’ve accidentally locked the door,
and can’t get back into the house.
The dining room window’s easiest;
crawl through beauty bush and spirea,
push aside some errant maples, take down
the wood-framed screen, hoist myself up.
But how, exactly, to clamber across the sill
and the radiator down to the tile?
I try bending one leg in, but I don’t fold
readily; I push myself up so that my waist
rests against the sill, and lean forward,
place my hands on the floor and begin to slide
down into the room, which makes me think
this was what it was like to be born:
awkward, too big for the passageway…
When I give myself
to gravity there I am, inside, no harm
the dazzling splotchy flowerheads
scattered around me on the floor.
Will leaving the world be the same
–uncertainty as to how to proceed,
some discomfort, and suddenly you’re
–where? I am so involved with this idea
I forget to unlock the door,
so when I got to fetch the mail, I’m locked out
again. Am I at home in this house,
would I prefer to be out here,
where I could be almost anyone?
This time I’s simpler: the window-frame,
the radiator, my descent. Born twice
in one day!
In their silvered jug,
these bruise-blessed flowers:
how hard I had to work to bring them
into this room. When I say spent,
I don’t mean they have no further coin.
If there are lives to come, I think
they might be a little easier than this one.
— so much as ever to play along with Doty in this poem of each of us, our company gathered together, we “bruise-blessed flowers” at the end of our seasons, and still “born twice in one day” Endless resurrection we are, and so we are to be into the world all about, gathering all “these bruise-blessed flowers” into communion and remembering, attending and company. To spend and be spent in the coin of the Kingdom of God, costly for one another.
Hope to see you next Sunday, and thanks for all your company at Grace and in poems, too.