I stumble my way through poetry. I don’t know much about the mechanics or the structure of it. I can’t talk about sonnets and couplets. Words like enjambment and spondee are foreign to me. When discussions head in that direction, I head to the periphery–keen on learning more but a bit intimidated by it all. I’m more comfortable with the wonders of word play– the delicious way that poems tumble off my tongue with assonance and alliteration and onomatopoeia. My pool of known, beloved poets is also small: Mary Oliver, Naomi Shahib Nye and Wendell Berry. Robert Frost, Shel Silverstein, Ogden Nash. Yet even as I write their names, I’m profoundly aware that I have only a superficial familiarity with their work (with the possible exception of Shel Silverstein whose much loved Where the Sidewalk Ends brightened my childhood days).
Yet I love poetry. I love discovering new poems. I love writing them. Above all, I love how poetry encapsulates an emotion or a moment so perfectly that it seems to reveal an essential truth–to cut right to the heart of the matter. There are times I read a poem and am stopped in my tracks. I don’t necessarily understand it all nor can I articulate all of its nuances or the craft that went into its structure, but it resonates within me. I feel charged and often changed by my encounter with it. Recently I encountered such a poem by Russian poet, Osip Mandelstam, translated by Christian Wiman.
And I Was Alive by Osip Mandelstam
And I was alive in the blizzard of the blossoming pear,
Myself I stood in the storm of the bird–cherry tree.
It was all leaflife and starshower, unerring, self–shattering
And it was all aimed at me.
What is this dire delight flowering fleeing always earth?
What is being? What is truth?
Blossoms rupture and rapture the air,
All hover and hammer,
Time intensified and time intolerable, sweetness raveling rot.
It is now. It is not.
If you’re interested in reading more poetry, go on over to Reflections on the Teche where Margaret Simon is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup.