After the Rutgers reading the night before last, I was thinking about the way the love of poetry, and the sense of what a poem can be, is handed down. Tina, Brenda and Tracy were grad students when I met them, so of course they were already dedicated to making poems, but together we were (and are) part of an ongoing, open-ended community of people who work to take care of the art. It was a pleasure to hear them talking about handing poems they love along to their students. I think of that not as a process of transmitting something new but rather one of restoration; as if these teachers were saying, look, this is what already belongs to you.
So it was particularly appropriate to come across this poem in the manuscript of Jason Shinder's superb posthumous book, STUPID HOPE, which is coming soon from Graywolf. Jason knew that he was mortally ill during the writing of these poems, and they seem to speak from a kind of edge of experience, from a position of extreme pressure. I remember talking to William Maxwell late in his life, when he hadn't been well, and he said, "I'm just living with all the doors and windows open." That seems an exact description of the situation of Jason's final poems.
But this one speaks especially to poetry itself, and to the life of reading.
A poem written three thousand years ago
about a man who walks among horses
grazing on a hill under the small stars
comes to life on a page in a book
and the woman reading the poem,,
in the silence between the words,
in her kitchen, filled, with a gold, metallic light,
finds the experience of living in that moment
so clearly described as to make her feel finally known
by someone -- And every time the poem is read,
no matter her situation or her age,
this is more or less what happens.