17 November 2010

seeking comfort

Sometime in July I read somewhere on the interwebs (twitter? a blog post? a comment? I can no longer remember where) (also, that should show you why I never update my blog, it takes that long for me to finish a thought) that poets do not read poetry for comfort. I really wish I could remember where I read that, because I'd like to revisit the context. From what I remember, it's not only that they don't, but shouldn't.

I read for many reasons, and it usually is not just for one. When I read a novel, at the bare minimum, I want to be transported, entertained, inspired. When I read poetry, it's even more complex. One of the many things I love about poetry is its diversity. I can turn to it for inspiration, to be challenged, for humour, for complexity, and so many other reasons. But there are times when a person must seek solace, and when I must, I will search for it in poetry.

I am not alone in this. Culture after culture turn to religious texts and song, both forms of poetry, for solace. So why is it so wrong for poets to look for it in the work of their peers?

I won't go into details here, but last year tragedy struck the lives of close friends. Many, many have been mourning and trying to make sense of this new reality ever since. In the Spring, I borrowed Poetry in Person: Twenty-five Years of Conversation with America's Poets from the library and discovered a poem that I keep returning to. I have copied it in the front of my writing journal (and below), and when the anniversary of the tragedy loomed, I found I would reread this poem multiple times a day. I still read it at least once a week. It is a beautiful, brilliant poem by one of America's best poets. It also gives me solace. Is it less of a poem because of this? Am I less of a reader because this what I take from it? I hope not.

I am curious where you, dear reader, seek solace. I would love to know the texts or songs you turn to when need comfort.

by Louise Gl├╝ck

Public sorrow, the acquired
gold of the leaf, the falling off,
the prefigured burning of the yield:
which is accomplished. At the lake's edge,
the metal pails are full vats of fire.
So waste is elevated
into beauty. And the scattered dead
unite in one consuming vision of order.
In the end, everything is bare.
Above the cold, receptive earth,
the trees bend. Beyond,
the lake shines, placid, giving back
the established blue of heaven.

.................................................................The word
is bear: you give and give, you empty yourself
into a child. And you survive
the automatic loss. Against inhuman landscape,
the tree remains a figure for grief; its form
is forced accommodation. At the grave,
it is the woman, isn't it, who bends,
the spear useless beside her.


Carrie Snyder said...

I can't imagine why a poet couldn't or shouldn't find solace in poetry. It would seem to me that a poet might especially be inclined to find solace in a poem.

Maybe it's that poets, like all people who write for a living, have a hard time removing the little critic who resides in their brain, and collapsing into a poem. I find that with many of the books I read--I'm quietly and compulsively editing, often. When I find something that transports me beyond that, I know it's a keeper.

You've found yourself a keeper.

m said...

I think there is a sense that poets are above sentimentality, and that any poet worth anything doesn't write from/about feelings. I've seen this reflected in my FB/twitter feeds lately. I disagree, obviously, but it's hard when the cool kids look down their noses at things you (I) hold dear.