Thursday, March 3, 2011

THREE POEMS IN THE SPRING (With apologies to Three Coins in the Fountain)

Spring! Or at least false Spring! And I’m among the fortunate people who enjoy two Springs – one in south Louisiana and another on The Mountain in Tennessee. Deep pink camellias, white and purple azaleas, and the Japanese magnolia trees have begun to bloom here, but I hear from Sewanee friends that only the daffodils are flowering in fields on The Mountain. By the time I arrive in Tennessee this month, we may even see more snowfall; however, by April, the forsythia, dogwood, wild azaleas, and rhododendron will flourish.

A few nights ago, I watched a poet read on national television and heard him talk about how, as he grew older, his poetry became less and less, or in literary lingo, he had become more of a minimalist – a “less is more” kind of poet. He reminded me of my own feelings about compressing words into poetry as I live through my seventh decade. Since I experience two Springs, I think of long poems to celebrate the wonder of another season of renewal, but when I sit down to write, the words are compressed into simple lines about birds, camellias, clover…and short titles announce them.

In 2005, I had truncated the words in a poem that illustrated this “less is more” concept in my chapbook entitled SOARING. The lead poem by the same name was 12 lines:

SOARING
We bird watch,
birds watch us,
vigilant crows
watching for their day to rule,
seeing straight through
to the evolution of human soaring.
How we claim ascent,
tree top, free fall,
while sitting at a table,
lying in bed,
waking before daybreak,
wings beating wildly.

And, by 2006, I had upped the lines to 14 in a February poem entitled “Spring Feathers” in my chapbook, MOMENT SEIZED:

SPRING FEATHERS
Mockingbird shrieking in a false Spring,
staging a stand-off with the plump jay,
too much the warrior in his incaution.
A brief fight and they glide away,
reminders of fleeting friendship.
In their tiny brains
Spring is a code,
a minute groove in mockingbird,
robin, sparrow,
foretelling this resurrection,
light out of shadow,
bloom out of folded bud,
sooth in the heart of a pistil…
the flurry of feather.

However, yesterday I found an unpublished minimalist poem written in the Spring of 2000, and it made me question this “growing older, poetry shorter” concept, as I had reduced a poem to eight lines:

ALCHEMY
Regard the delicacy of the red camellia
and know that even it will fade,
somewhat like your gold becoming lead,
substance becoming another substance,
flower, gold, and, yes, even language;
Name me some endurance
where the river runs cold
and I will show you
love’s energies transforming it.

As Spring arrives here in “The Berry” (New Iberia), I’m certain of two things – the older I become, the lovelier the renewal of the natural world appears to be…and the sap of poetry runs deeper.
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