Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer, screech owls, spiders, and WHAT IS AMAZING

Summer feels like no time to blog, as the distance in time between the last post and this one will attest. i want to be out in the garden, or under the high loose canopy of leaves out back, where the shadows of branches vein the slope of grass. I love it there; it's a place where the mind wants to drift downward toward the moles in their tunnels, or up toward the new screech owl nesting box I've hung fifteen feet or so off the ground. Still empty, I think, though the other night I heard the underwater ripple of their call, after twilight, from the woods behind my neighbor's house, its piercing quality softened bit by distance. Maybe it'll be next year before they find the box. The little round opening and the pile of cedar shavings for nest-making await.

I've been reading a fine new book of poems by Heather Christle called WHAT IS AMAZING; it will be out from Wesleyan 'ere long. Heather's collection is making me think about poetry as a vessel of subjectivity. Maybe one of the art's functions is to record something of what it feels like to be alive in any particular moment; it's almost accidental, for the poet, that this inscription becomes historical, preserving an aspect of the spirit of the age. Think of Frank O'Hara, and the way those remarkable present-tense poems, dedicating to transcribing the motions of eye, mind and heart in the moment, seem timeless. They're happening right now, as you read them, but they also a moment of consciousness in New York in the 1950s in a crystalline form.

Christle's book feels very particular to the 21st century, but I haven't been able to articulate to myself just how this is so. Because they're notations of awareness, both private and public at once? Because they're tentative, like pages from a secret notebook, and also oddly bold, artfully earning the reader's allegiance and bringing us into alignment with the writer's way of seeing? Because the speaker feels like a kind of psychic seismograph, recording the major and minor tremors that ripple through her awareness?

Well, what you see above is me thinking my way towards a blurb, trying to find my way to some kind of reasonably intelligent formulation about challenging work that I love. Challenging to describe, I mean, which is what a good blurbs does. Praise is easy, but the work of actually articulating what a poet seems to be up to is a whole other task.

Anyway, here's a poem from the book, one I think is just extraordinary.


The spider he is confused
b/c I am not killing him
only moving him outdoors
When I die I do not want
to feel confused
Please I would rather feel clarity
like I am a pool
and death a chlorine tablet
I want it to feel
not like I am dying
but am being transferred
to the outside
And I hope I do not drown
as I have seen happen
to hundreds of spiders
b/c I love to swim
and to drown would
wreck swimming
for a long time
But death is like none of this
I know that death is a tower
standing in the middle of the town
And the tower receives
many visits
And there's no one
but spiders inside


Anonymous said...

There is a child-like voice in this poem I think. The repetitions also reinforce this notion, as do the children's fairy tale daemons of spiders, towers, and pools.

Paul Lisicky said...

"Please I would rather feel clarity" -- I love that moment. And the tower at the end, which I cannot help fusing to the towers I just saw in Cape Henlopen. Heather.

LK said...

That is a beautiful poem. Well observed. Is it the swimming or the pool?

Anonymous said...

God, please don't let death be a tower with no one inside but spiders. Now I'll have to rage, rage even harder.

(Love the "b/c"; it makes the poem feel casual, tells the 21st century reader- don't worry, there's nothing to fear here. Of course there is, but thank goodness for chlorine tablets)

Beautiful- thank you.

Insatiable36 said...

Beautiful. I feel it speaks to a modern day approach and understanding of the universe and karma. The "child-like voice" draws you in with its simplicity and genuine innocence (something we all have experienced). But it also plays on the assurance that an adult is capable of feeling so genuine and deeply about saving another, for it will save her too. And this, this concept is imperative in a contemporary audience, for I feel we all have that innate need to be assured of the human-ness in humanity and all like to feel that somewhere someone is in our corner. Thank you for making me feel like someone will scoop me out when I step into what is seemingly a shallow puddle and fall in over my head. Thank you.

apprentice said...

This is clean & tidy death, death as a pre-booked trip to Zurich.

The death we aspire to in the fleeting moments when we accept that it may just happen to us.

But for most death is a wrecking ball that they do well to duck for as long as they can.

Maybe that's what makes this poem 21c

Michael Meyerhofer said...

Cool poem! It reminds me a little of Whitman's "The Noiseless Patient Spider" with a little WCW and James Wright thrown in. I'll have to check this out. Coincidentally, I just ordered "The Trees The Trees" a few days ago.

bryn marlow said...

Last night my husband and I went to great lengths to capture a cricket in our basement. I carried it outside and released it. As Ii trooped down the stairs I told Dave, "If I come back as a cricket in another life, I'd like someone to treat me with kindness."

To today read Heather's poem is to become engaged in what you reference in an earlier post, feeling my cricket snippet of experience turned inside out, death brought to the fore rather than relegated to an assumed future, my thoughts about ultimate reality shadowed and illuminated all at once.

Pascale Petit said...

What a fabulous poem, thanks for posting it. Just love the way the big themes are handled through tiny creatures, so original.

Anonymous said...

Although I don't like walking into the garden to have face full of their webs, I have been trying to embrace the presence of spiders in my garden. It's about the artful dance of redirecting but not killing them. Surely there are bigger lessons in this task.

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Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

I’m inspired. Here are two more spider poems:


I’ve worked on this poem
for over an hour.
I looked up to ponder my next line,
saw a spider.
Something was caught in his web.
Every time I looked back up
he was winding and working
and wrapping his prey.

I wonder about the time we’ve each
invested, working on our projects
side by side.
We both spent an hour or more,
but what did it pay?
I didn’t make a nickel and I’m hungry
and he had his dinner today.

Copyright 2008 – HARDWOOD-77 Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald


A penchant for spirals, I think,
in creation.
I see them everywhere:
the invisible, slim chain of the DNA,
the immense swing beyond sight
of the Milky Way, the twist of a snail,
a particle’s trail…
the spider web’s delicate bend.

But also a fondness to test, it seems,
our determination
to persist through closing night,
survive another day,
a propensity to measure how we fare
against the cyclone’s roar
and the curl of a wave,
the coil of a cobra’s tail.

So we follow the circles of our lives
which begin so wide to become so thin,
turn in the vortex of this spinning whim,
rounding ever closer to the core
and the bite at the spiral’s end.

Copyright 2008 – Softwood-Seventy-eight Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald