And I Was Alive



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.

14 thoughts on “And I Was Alive

  1. andreashalal says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem and your honest essay about poetry. I’m struck over and over again by the way you have of putting your finger on something I’ve often thought or felt, but never felt compelled to write. Reading your work inspires me; it makes me want to drop everything and write about what I see and experience. It’s also a wonderful way of staying connected with you, giving me small insights into what is occupying your mind at the moment. Bravo, dear friend and role model.

    Hugs and kisses from Berlin,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. danrothermel says:

    Good morning, I am struck by this one phrase “When discussions head in that direction, I head to the periphery–” I find that applies to me when I want to step back, sense the relationships going on, watch how they develop, see who dominates, who listens. The periphery is a great place to observe life.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Tabatha says:

    Powerful word choices in this poem! I am always amazed by the challenge poetry presents for translators. Mandelstam’s name looked familiar, so I checked and I have shared his work a couple of times (the last time was four years ago). All of his work has really fresh imagery. Thanks for reminding me!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Irene Latham says:

    As a fellow stumbler, I appreciate so much your words about what poetry means to you. Writing/reading poetry IS a way to be alive in the world. Thank you for sharing this poem and yourself with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That is a wonderful poem. I don’t think you have to be a technical master of spondee and meter to be a poet. It’s a flexible form to contain all forms of joy, wonder and thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Linda Baie says:

    I liked hearing about your feelings about poetry, and this poem, wow. Love the thoughts surrounding a tree’s flowering, especially “Blossoms rupture and rapture the air”. Thanks, Molly.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Donna Smith says:

    I do think you can know good poetry without knowing all the why’s. I have so much to learn about much of what you talk about. But I do know that the poem by Osip Mandelstam is spectacular. It seems though that the translator, Christian Wiman, really “owns” as much of that particular poem as the poet. How can he come up with “blizzard of the blossoming”, “rupture and rapture” or “hover and hammer” without himself being a spectacular poet?
    This was beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. mbhmaine says:

    Both Osip Mandelstam and Christian Wiman have fascinating histories, Donna. I also thought a lot about the role of the translator and these amazing phrases. Where does the poet’s art end and the translator’s begin?


  9. maryleehahn says:

    This reminds me a bit of Gerard Manley Hopkins. And it goes nicely with my “notice the miracles” poem today!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. margaretsmn says:

    I think it is exciting to be a poetry novice because there is so much to learn and explore. This is a beautiful poem and I think I’ll steal a line and write for a few minutes. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is such a beautiful poem. Now that the blossoms have fallen from the trees, it was nice to read this and think about the bigger meaning behind the trees (and this poem).

    Liked by 1 person

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