National Poetry Month

"Sleeping Out"
pastel on paper, 1997
22" X 30"

April is National Poetry Month, and I can’t let it pass by without some celebration. My earliest memories of poetry go back to when my age was in the single digits–what kid doesn’t grow up with nursery rhymes? But I also remember bringing home a flyer from the Scholastic Book Club and showing it to my mom. I had pointed at some books I was interested in, and she replied that I was old enough for poetry. That was my first book of poems, and others came later.

My generation was not made to commit poetry to memory, but my gramma could recite lines from John Greenleaf Whittier that she had learned as a young girl. I went through a phase of anguished adolescent poetry writing, and also enjoyed reading poetry in French and German. Over the years I have found poets whose work speaks to me in an intimate way, as if they have found words for what I notice and feel. Or they have found words for connections I only make upon reading, and these bloom in my heart and imagination like the aurora. Now and then a poem comes bubbling up out of me, usually when I am especially emotionally stirred. No other form of expression will do. Often these feel private–visual art and prose may be seen by others, but the poems are very personal

Mary Oliver is one of my favorites, and it seems right to share a poem of hers. Enjoy.

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth
remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

Mary Oliver

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