Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

day 14 of Thanksgiving ~

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…

the middle of Thanksgiving ~

For many of us, Thanksgiving lasts a month. Each day I use Facebook to share something for which I’m grateful. It may be as small as the sunlight that hits the deck chair exactly right on a brisk fall day, or as large as the amazement I feel that my nieces & nephews want to share Thanksgiving w/ us enough to cook. :)

I’ve mentioned before that I keep a gratitude journal. So it’s not unusual for me to be grateful :). But somehow, putting my thankfulness out into the public sphere is different than writing it down within the snug confines of my small black book. For one thing, I tag people when I refer to them: a higher-up, a sister, a friend, the nieces & nephews. Because it’s nice for people to know they’re special. And this time of year, as light wanes and energies seem to follow, how lovely is it hear your own praises sung? And to be honest, it makes me far happier to praise them than it can possibly make them to hear it … :)

Today I’m grateful for left-overs. Really! I’m trying to do some major projects (one of which is NOT going well), and when lunch time came, energy had moved out of the house, along w/ the autumn light… But wait: there was roast beef left from Sunday, which means one of my favourite lunches — a cold roast beef sandwich! What’s better than a great meal when you’re tired & a bit discouraged w/ your progress?

So here’s my suggestion: let’s share what we’re grateful for these next 2+ weeks. As simple as good chocolate, as complex as a new relationship. Share the wealth! Tell us what you’re thankful for this month of Thanksgiving ~

still learning from the student ~

 And no one exists alone….We must love one another or die.   ~ Auden

A dear former student just posted a line of Auden to my FaceBook: We must love one another or die. It’s from the poem “September 1, 1939,” one of my favourites. Sitting in a cafe, surrounded by friends  who are quietly writing, I was overcome for a moment.

I miss teaching. Not the grading, not even standing up in front of a rapt class. I miss the learning, the many ways human being teach other what is important. As my former student reminded me just now: we are never alone.

Poetry is such a huge part of my life. Other people go off on riffs about their bikes, or gardens, or their hobbies. I go off on dead poets and metre and metaphor and the neo-sonnet. I just did that at lunch… Sigh… My poor, long-suffering friends.

Because poetry is the heart’s language — that way of laying out the finite griefs that seem forever, the fragile and joys that craze and shatter even as we contemplate them. What I have learned these many years of teaching is that I’m not a particularly amazing teacher; I’m just lucky enough to teach an amazing art: writing. Often poetry.

To teach poetry — to teach writing — is to learn with students this mysterious way of speaking and knowing. It’s to understand how (& why) Auden would say so bluntly: We must love each other or die. 

 

the changing face(s) of America ~

A note after the election (long, so be warned):

Eight years ago, when Bush was re-elected, I couldn’t believe it. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe the American people would voluntarily re-elect a man I saw as so divisive, so driven to war, so corporately owned.  I was heart-sick. In other words, I really do understand the deep depression and disbelief on the part of the right following this election.

That said, I didn’t share my disappointment on FB. I didn’t like the election results, but I didn’t make accusations regarding his family, or his religion, or his lack thereof. I didn’t pray he would die (and yes, I’ve seen all of these – on the FB pages of ostensible FRIENDS). I didn’t publish horrible threats, nor did I give in to publicly sharing the many fears I had.

Instead, I worked hard to reach out to people I knew as good people, even though we didn’t share political perspectives. If I had problems with policies — and certainly I did, as Romney’s supporters do with Obama’s — I vented to sympathetic  friends.

Later, as we neared another election, I tried to listen, to understand, and to do my homework. My background in research is strong, and I thought it was something I could offer. But I quickly found that many people WANT to believe what they believe. Facts, as the campaign manager said, are not them. And that’s their business.

But I want to assure you: Obama is a Christian. His children attend Quaker school. He was raised — as I was — overseas. This doesn’t make either of us aliens. He isn’t going to implant chips in us for ObamaCare. :) No matter what Fox News or Rush Limbaugh have said — and they are in their jobs for $$, folks; they are NOT unbiased :) — Obama is not evil. Nor are those of us who voted for him. We also aren’t immoral socialists, or baby killers. When I hear the Republicans say that their party is not conservative enough, I’m shocked. EVERY man who made horrible statements about women & rape was voted out. The most strident of the Tea Partiers were, for the most part, voted out as well.

Perhaps a few statistics about the 2012 election will help.

Continue Reading This Post »

Previous Posts

chores and a plug for whining
I think there should be a National Day of Whining. And yes, I know there's a National Whiners Day (Boxing Day -- December 26th -- what's up w/ that??). But it's not the same. I don't want to be a whiner. I want

posted 7:22:32pm Jul. 29, 2014 | read full post »

time and healing
I was reminded today healing happens, but it takes time. More than a week ago, I cut my finger pretty badly. I think the verb I used was 'clove,' since I whacked it w/ my brand-new cleaver. As you can se

posted 5:40:30pm Jul. 27, 2014 | read full post »

peace, love, and teaching our children
I often think that old hippies -- those of us who were in it for the peace & love, not the sex, drugs, rock&roll -- became teachers. Because that's what the teachers I know believe in: peace & love. P

posted 11:12:28pm Jul. 25, 2014 | read full post »

ritual and being our own best friends
So yes, I am the person who will make Việtnamese coffee w/ a stainless steel straw, bought specifically for the occasion. Because ritual rocks. Seriously: it offers us structure and space, time to sip a cold drink and pamper ourselves, as we would a loved one. A dear friend. Someone who needs a

posted 1:09:23pm Jul. 23, 2014 | read full post »

friendship, memory, and love
My mother-in-law has a friend! This may not sound like a big deal to many of you, but those of us w/ family in elder care KNOW it's bigger than it may sound. Nursing homes -- even good ones -- aren't conducive to happiness, sadly. My beloved mother-in-law was used to her own place, her own schedule

posted 1:18:07pm Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.