Could you talk to us about some of your favorite poets and/or poems? Where/when you first heard them, why they're among your favorites, that sort of thing?
I have such a weird relationship with poetry. I always felt like “oh, I’m just not that into poetry” but the thing is that I really am? Or really can be - when poetry hits me, really hits me where I live, it’s this intense shivery feeling of “oh, you did that” that I associate with very powerful art - music, visual, literature, all of it.
Mary Oliver is one of the poets that I always come back to - so much of her poetry is…it’s about grace, and natural beauty, and finding peace in yourself. I first ran into her actually through the Episcopal Church I used to go to with my family - the lead musician really liked her poetry, and set “At Blackwater Pond” to music. (I wish I could share the song. I don’t think it’s recorded anywhere.)
And the way she uses language is just…I mean, I could probably analyze “Wild Geese” to hell and back talking about why it makes me cry a little every time I read it, but I don’t even know that I want to? It’s those thematics, I think. And now I’m going to quote “Wild Geese” at you:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
and I cry.
Another one is W.H. Auden, who I think I was introduced to because of my sister, but also at some point I ran into the poem “The Two”, or “The Witnesses” which if you read it you’ll recognize that I’ve used a bunch of lines from it for titles. It was such a weird, haunting, creepy poem and I love it. And then I read “As I Walked Out One Evening” and the imagery in that one is just…I love it, I really do. And also “Epitaph on a Tyrant”. He’s a very different poet, but his phrases stick in my head. I remember Auden lines even when I can’t remember what the hell poem they were from.
Then there’s Kahlil Gibran who I’m pretty sure came to me direct from @ameliarating and The Prophet is just one of the loveliest, most moving prose poems I’ve ever read. I need to go back and read the whole thing again. I made sort of a text-art thing of my favorite quote from it (which I’ve definitely referenced before):
You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link. This is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link.To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of the ocean by the frailty of its foam. To judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the seasons for their inconstancy.
I know I’m not the only one who needs to hear that.
Last but not least on my “poets I actually know are faves by name” is T.S. Eliot, because “The Hollow Men” and “The Waste Land” are my jam, I don’t always like the modernists but when they’re all about broken shattered remnants in the aftermath of world-shattering events…yeah I’m into that. T.S. Eliot may be a dick but he did some cool stuff with words.
And I’m never going to forget
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
But then there are individual poems that I know that I love always - “Invictus”, for instance, or “Dirge Without Music”; “The Second Coming” by Yeats…or there’s one by Ursula K. LeGuin called “Ars Lunga” that I love…I mean, here is a list I wrote of poems that always make me feel feelings.