This morning, Alison Natasi’s piece “20 Poets on the Meaning of Poetry” in Flavorwire had me drooling.
It’s hard to pick a favorite from among such an abundance of riches, but number 9 from Carl Sandburg’s Tentative (First Model): Definitions of Poetry, did, pretty much, do what Emily Dickinson said poetry would: it made me feel as if the top of my head had been taken off!
9. Poetry is an echo asking a shadow dancer to be a partner.
Speaking of Carl Sandburg, here’s one of my favorite poems of his:
Wilderness (by Carl Sandburg)
THERE is a wolf in me … fangs pointed for tearing gashes … a red tongue for raw meat … and the hot lapping of blood—I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me and the wilderness will not let it go.
There is a fox in me … a silver-gray fox … I sniff and guess … I pick things out of the wind and air … I nose in the dark night and take sleepers and eat them and hide the feathers … I circle and loop and double-cross.
There is a hog in me … a snout and a belly … a machinery for eating and grunting … a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun—I got this too from the wilderness and the wilderness will not let it go.
There is a fish in me … I know I came from saltblue water-gates … I scurried with shoals of herring … I blew waterspouts with porpoises … before land was … before the water went down … before Noah … before the first chapter of Genesis.
There is a baboon in me … clambering-clawed … dog-faced … yawping a galoot’s hunger … hairy under the armpits … here are the hawk-eyed hankering men … here are the blond and blue-eyed women … here they hide curled asleep waiting … ready to snarl and kill … ready to sing and give milk … waiting—I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.
There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird … and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want … and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes—And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.
O, I got a zoo, I got a menagerie, inside my ribs, under my bony head, under my red-valve heart—and I got something else: it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart: it is a father and mother and lover: it came from God-Knows-Where: it is going to God-Knows-Where—For I am the keeper of the zoo: I say yes and no: I sing and kill and work: I am a pal of the world: I came from the wilderness.
I feel, paradoxically, more whole when I see the universe inside me in all its faces: now fierce, then gentle; now voracious, then soft; now violent, now yielding; now this, now that, and eventually somehow, always all. Something about recognizing everything inside me makes me gentler, more patient, and softer, somehow, when I see it —even the ugly bits— out there. Maybe in you.
Today, I am at once curious and frightened by what seems to be warbling “in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope.” Also, I am in love with the word “warble,” which I am rolling around like a marble in my mouth. Because, like a 2-year-old, my favorite place to put favorite things still seems to be in my mouth.
Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. Drool with me over at Flavorwire?