What Light Does
Today, I did nothing.
Light went on as usual,
throwing leaves against the white wall,
as if no one were watching, as if
there's no meaning in the trembling
of the leaves. Later, light moves
the leaves onto the tile floor,
and once I might have thought them
dancing, or that the shadow
of a thing is more beautiful
than the thing itself, but it's not,
it's just ordinary light, going about
its ordinary business. Now, evening is here,
and I've made it through another day
of shadows. This is not metaphor, or poetry,
it's how the unbearable is
a blade that gleams and remains
visible, long after light has gone.
- Patty Paine
I love these raw moist dawns with
a thousand birds you hear but can't
quite see in the mist.
My old alien body is a foreigner
struggling to get into another country.
The loon call makes me shiver.
Back at the cabin I see a book
and am not quite sure what that is.
- Jim Harrison
Today again I am hardly myself.
It happens over and over.
It is heaven-sent.
It flows through me
like the blue wave.
Green leaves - you may believe this or not -
have once or twice
emerged from the tips of my fingers
deep in the woods,
in the reckless seizure of spring.
Though, of course, I also know that other song,
the sweet passion of one-ness.
Just yesterday I watched an ant crossing a path, through the
tumbled pine needles she toiled.
And I thought: she will never live another life but this one.
And I thought: if she lives her life with all her strength
is she not wonderful and wise?
And I continued this up the miraculous pyramid of everything
until I came to myself.
And still, even in these northern woods, on these hills of sand,
I have flown from the other window of myself
to become white heron, blue whale,
red fox, hedgehog.
Oh, sometimes already my body has felt like the body of a flower!
Sometimes already my heart is a red parrot, perched
among strange, dark trees, flapping and screaming.
- Mary Oliver
My students look at me expectantly.
I explain to them that the life of art is a life
of endless labor. Their expressions
hardly change; they need to know
a little more about endless labor.
So I tell them the story of Sisyphus,
how he was doomed to push
a rock up a mountain, knowing nothing
would come of this effort
but that he would repeat it
indefinitely. I tell them
there is joy in this, in the artist's life,
that one eludes
judgment, and as I speak
I am secretly pushing a rock myself,
slyly pushing it up the steep
face of a mountain. Why do I lie
to these children? They aren't listening,
they aren't deceived, their fingers
tapping at the wooden desks -
So I retract
the myth; I tell them it occurs
in hell, and that the artist lies
because he is obsessed with attainment,
that he perceives the summit
as that place where he will live forever,
a place about to be
transformed by his burden: with every breath,
I am standing at the top of the mountain.
Both my hands are free. And the rock has added
height to the mountain.
- Louise Glück
"The poet is at the edge of our consciousness of the world, finding beyond the suspected nothingness which we imagine limits our perception another acre or so of being worth our venturing upon."
- Guy Davenport
"Doubt is more intelligent than poetry, insofar as it tells malicious tales about the world, things we've long known but struggled to hide from ourselves. But poetry surpasses doubt, pointing to what we cannot know. Doubt is narcissistic; we look at everything critically, including ourselves, and perhaps that comforts us. Poetry, on the other hand, trusts the world, and rips us from the deep-sea diving suits of our "I"; it believes in the possibility of beauty and its tragedy. Poetry's argument with doubt has nothing in common with the facile quarrel of optimism and pessimism. The twentieth century's great drama means that we now deal with two kinds of intellect: the resigned and the seeking, the questing. Doubt is poetry for the resigned. Whereas poetry is searching, endless wandering. Doubt is a tunnel, poetry is a spiral. Doubt prefers to shut, while poetry opens. Poetry laughs and cries, doubt ironizes. Doubt is death's plenipotentiary, its longest and wittiest shadow; poetry runs toward an unknown goal. Why does one choose poetry while another chooses doubt? We don't know and we'll never find out. We don't know why one is Cioran and the other is Milosz."
- Adam Zagajewski
A Defense of Ardor