“Poems we love are just songs we must sing again and again.”
As an average or even avid reader of poems, we should know how badly we are outmatched. It’s not fair how poems say what they don’t mean one minute, then mean what they don’t say the next. Writers of poems are surely on to us and this strange thing called the human condition. That’s why the poet deliberately throws us off the trail, then turns right around and gives us that hound dog scent of meaning and delight.
It has to do with a peculiar quirk in human beings. It’s a paradox at the base of our spine and soul. But poets are not fooled. They constantly tease right up to the edge of things for a tiny glimpse of truth, before it scurries away. Listen, our religion must be surprise. We must trick ourselves into something like awareness, happiness, and on certain occasions (here’s the part where we blush) wisdom. Why? Because when we become overly self-conscious, we can’t help but sabotage the very things we want.
I’m not going to say much more about this. After all, we can’t try to not try any more than we cannot try to try. (Quick, zen master get me out of here!)
Let’s look at it this way. When we were teenagers we fell in love with certain songs. Remember? We listened to them over and over. They cast a deep and mysterious spell on us. After hundreds of listenings, and tapping all manner of body parts (fingers, feet, hands) to the beat. And after dancing to these songs and singing them in the shower (often poorly, but who cares) we finally felt we understood something. Of course, we didn’t, but we did have something so precious and real, that we still have it to this day.
I ask you this. Why would a poem we love not respond to us and us to it, just like a song? Now I know what you might be saying. “Hey, there is no scratchy AM radio station blurting out the poems I love each hour. And no turntable where I can spin Rilke, Oliver or Rumi.” But here’s the thing: Aren’t the libraries and bookstores of the world calling to us both like the wild geese, harsh and exciting? Yes! OK, now you know what to do: Read. Love. Repeat.
I’m telling you, something remarkable is going to come from all this…