Beliefnet
Beginner's Heart

Today’s a bittersweet thank-you. A poet I love dearly — Jack Gilbert — died yesterday. Gilbert was one of the (many) poets who helped me shape my own craft. But even had I not also been a writer, I don’t see how I could have not loved his work. Loved the quiet accommodation to his singularly lonely life, and the peace he found in the trees & rocks & doors around him…

So today I give thanks for the many poets who have saved my life. Sometimes quite literally: sent me a ‘message in a bottle,’ as the Indigo Girls said of Virginia Woolf (who while not a poet, certainly also helped me make sense of my crazy life). May Sarton, Dnise Levertov, Mark Doty, Seamus Heaney, Robert Hayden, Robert Hass. Auden, great heart…

Others lifted me out of inchoate grief or loneliness or anger: Yusuf Komunyakaa & Linda Pastan & Mary Oliver & Pattiann Rogers. While still others gave me laughter as I marvelled at their craft: Billy Collins & Merwin & Neruda & Kunitz. So many poets, so little time…:)

Of all the things I give thanks for this month, closest to who I am are these poets. They have been, far more often than I have shared, the mechanisms driving the wounded heart, the lost mind, the broken body. Gilbert was an important one.

Each is far greater in scope than an ordinary writer. Still… Like chatoyant stones in light, so often their words have shifted into some kind of meaning for my life. And that’s more than enough to be very grateful for…

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