I must be feeling grounded, these last three days, because all the poems are happening right here. Place poems. The little notions that might get stitched into a poem today happened while I was on a walk by myself. That was worth of italics, I promise. I had to be might selfish to get one. I had to allow myself to let HP take two hungry and cranky kids up the driveway while I continued on alone, and that was hard. But, so worth it! I’m no good at mediation, but walking fast, and listening, I think I get close to the desired effect. I also daydream a lot. Then I catch myself and feel slightly guilty and try to redirect my thoughts back to the Very Important Topics of the Day. Typically it doesn’t work.
Anyhow. Place. As far as I can tell, a poem becomes a “poem of place” if those places are named. If I write about walking alone and listening, it is just a poem, but if I write about walking alone and listening in Hope, actually, East Hope, Idaho, or by Denton Slough, or at the Bird Refuge off of the highway, then it is a place poem. This poets.org article (author uncredited, best I can tell) about “The Secret of Light,” by James Wright, puts the special kind of escape and gratitude, near to blessing, that occurs when writing about a place you love like this:
So the poet of place situates himself in place in order to lose himself in it. Poetry of place is actually a poetry of displacement and self-annihilation. The poet replaces self with situation, turning himself, as in were, inside out, so that the center of “knowing who you are” becomes the circumference of uncertainty. The poem as locus mirrors this dynamic, since it is a measured place, possibly with stanzas (rooms), which has an infinite capacity to contain everything outside it, including the poet. To have identity means to be alone. Loneliness is the anxiety that compels us to identify with an other or with otherness. To disappear into a place. To empathize.
I like that, “a poetry of displacement and self-annihilation”, but I don’t get self-annihilation by the end of “The Secret of Light.” In fact, “It is all right with me to know that my life is only one life. I feel like the light of the river Adige”, seems nearly hopeful.
So, I’m going to poem about my walk, and you can decide if I’ve annihilated myself while writing about place. Here’s hoping.
This Time By Foot in East Hope
This time by foot and alone, the solitude an unseasonable jacket in the late spring, in not the first good heat but close to it, the wind picks up with my pace along the old highway in East Hope. Weather light, bright and strangely shadowed untethers my mind, river sandals on the gravel sound farewell to Homados and the din of battle leaves, sucking dreams into the vacuum. The train dream comes with the first sound on the engine, singing along my bones and I have to stop to feel the Earth rock. It carries the bodies of planes, shining emerald tic tac bodies with duct taped windows that look fragile. Flying is foolish, and into the space left blank by lack of demand comes a dream about crashing. For a second there are screams int terror and frantic shoving, until the sound of the brakes on the track brings me back, with a flash of guilt like heat in the gut. We, the dreams and I, pass the beaten Century 21 signs, pass the bunker house, pass the one with the strange old satellite dishes, and the house with the one-horned goat, her crown of buzzing corybantes making hovering guards. We are in the space between two fronts, the cumulonimbus velum heavy twisting skeins of dark grey wool advancing in on us over Lake Pend Oreille, the pressure building on this mind, inviting all daydreams to come before the storm. Because this nation is moving ore every twenty minutes, another train. Stopping again, my toes vibrating and lulled senseless by the loud rush, this time the tags on the cars catch the story, of anarchists, no revolutionaries, plotting strike against the bituminous blight, waiting in the moonlight to receive orders coded as graffitti from a distant coast. The shadow of a bird with boomerang wings over the last car brings us back, to the inching clouds now, now, now, the songbirds get in a round before the squall, they join the wasp, bumblebee, drone, squirel, a John Cage piece in the cocktail light and he’s on stage, solitary bugs and small rodents in boxes, an Osprey tethered to a post, each still sound set against the fading train, leaping about as he did. A crooning Cessna stops such silliness with a shudder, a nightmare begun and slammed down into a mountainside of blank grief. Time then, to turn around. Time to turn around and get ahead of the coming weather.
I don’t know how to format this, so I’m not going to. Happy Saturday, poemfriends.