Saturday, March 31, 2012

Freshness of Vison, Seeing the World Anew -Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

I read Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” years ago. What I loved then and still do love is her freshness of vision, and her great love of all that wiggles, crawls, and flies in nature. Re-reading the first chapter of this book recently added a conscious understanding of what freshness of vision really means.

I was mesmerized by Dillard’s description of the recently sighted people who Von Sender wrote about in “Space and Spirit." Some people were frightened by their new sighted world, some in awe of it, being able to see color patches those color patches infants see before seeing kicks in. Dillard says, “I live now in a world of shadows that shape and distance color, a world where space makes a kind of terrible sense.” She calls this world of colored patches “a world unraveled from reason."

These newly sighted people had sight as a pure sensation without being filtered by meaning. This is the world Annie Dillard seems to long for. To be able to see the familiar in a new way. She writes with envy in the positive sense of the experiences of the newly sighted. Some people had no sense of size or space. They couldn’t picture anything but what was in front of them and did not know that what they saw had substance. The language of the world upset some of the newly sighted people. The world was beyond their concept of what was touchable. One person was upset to the realize that he had been visible to people and this happened without his giving them his consent. As if we need permission to see each other physically. What was upsetting was that people could look and maybe he was unattractive. Some people when realizing this visibility groomed themselves differently.

This is an extraordinary idea; because the person had no concept of sight they assumed no visibility for themselves or others. They had no concept of visibility.In a sense this “normal vision” is what clouds our seeing and to Annie Dillard making the familiar unfamiliar is a full time job. In this unfamiliarity the grandeur of the universe is revealed, allowing wonder and gratitude to appear.

Annie Dillard's way of wanting to see in this book is like that of a child's I saw observing a worm. The child was lying in the dirt on his stomach. He was about three years old and he had his head about a half-inch from the worm. He looked up at me with sheer joy in his voice and on his face and said, “Want to see this worm wiggle?” This worm was the most fascinating creature on earth to this child. Since this child had no meaning for worm, he was like the unsighted or newly sighted person seeing the worm as a patch of color and looking very hard to see what it was all about.

Perhaps the gift of Dillard’s writing is to encourage us to see the old in a new extraordinary way. Time, observation, reflection and a new vision are the methods to re-see the natural world as a show where a magician is always taking something awesome out of his hat.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Is Poetry Boring? Who Reads Poetry?

Got Poetry?
 What? Poetry?

     Two times in the last year I gave my poetry chapbooks to friends who are fiction readers to get their opinions. When one friend returned  the book she said nothing, not even thank you. It was as if she didn't want to talk about the book. She seemed embarrassed like I had given her something illegal or so horrible she wanted to cover if up like a woman who hides her face not wanting to let a man she likes see her blush. Yes, some people still blush.
     I asked  the other friend what she thought. She was honest and said she didn't get many of  the poems and said it was her not me. I have heard that line its me not you before, not from a friend and not about poetry.
     Both friends love to read but not poetry. I had inflicted them with words in a form that had little meaning to them. And they had a hard time telling me. I became the poetry leper. If  you see her walking towards you with one of her little books, run is what I imagine one of my friends now says to the other.
     Sometimes I wonder if people who write poetry are from some kinder gentler world ruled by the planet Neptune. In astrology Neptune rules poetry.

"Neptune comprises those transcendent forces that tend to loosen and dissolve the artificial barriers of time, space, egos, and nations, and the traditions, conventions and laws (of man and nature) which appear unchangeable".

     Or maybe  poets live in an alternate universe ruled by the sounds and symbols of words and images that not everyone finds familiar or tangible. Many poets live in a world of incomplete sentences (when they write poetry) and metaphor among other experiences. 
     Whatever the reason poetry does not seem to capture the attention of the mainstream unless it rhymes, like in hip hop or advertising copy or song lyrics. Even then it can be a hard sell. I know people who would much rather read a Jackie Collin's novel, no offense to you Jackie, than read a poem that gets to the core of passion and  greed and ends happily in about 5 minutes. 
   There are genres for everyone.  Literature diversity is a good thing. But why is poetry a misunderstood form of writing to many, a mystery they cannot be bothered to decipher?

 Do You Like  Poetry?

 Post a response if you'd like.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What Do Women Poets Write About?The Poetry of Dorianne Laux


Dorianne Laux's poems are lyrical, many filled with reflection on everything "female."  Reading  her poems, I feel good about the process of living, how everything unfolds. Laux can write about disturbing events or emotions and still I feel inspired by her direct intimate encounter with all she sees.

"About Laux's work, the poet Tony Hoagland has said, "Her poems are those of a grown American woman, one who looks clearly, passionately, and affectionately at rites of passage, motherhood, the life of work, sisterhood, and especially sexual love, in a celebratory fashion."


She is twelve now, the door to her room
closed, telephone cord trailing the hallway
in tight curls. I stand at the dryer, listening
through the thin wall between us, her voice
rising and falling as she describes her new life.
Static flies in brief blue stars from her socks,
her hairbrush in the morning. Her silver braces
shine inside the velvet case of her mouth.
Her grades rise and fall, her friends call
or they don't, her dog chews her new shoes
to a canvas pulp. Some days she opens her door
and musk rises from the long crease in her bed,
fills the dim hall. She grabs a denim coat
and drags the floor. Dust swirls in gold eddies
behind her. She walks through the house, a goddess,
each window pulsing with summer. Outside,
the boys wait for her teeth to straighten.
They have a vibrant patience.
When she steps onto the front porch, sun shimmies
through the tips of her hair, the V of her legs,
fans out like wings under her arms
as she raises them and waves. Goodbye, Goodbye.
Then she turns to go, folds up
all that light in her arms like a blanket
and takes it with her.

 Read More

Dorianne Laux's  Website

 Poems and Commentaryby Robert Pinksy and Others