Poetry and the Night Sky

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Living in modern cities with street lights dimming the dark, we settle into a comfortable amnesia. This is all there is: kilowatts and miles per hour. Each day fractured into little bits. Nerves, heart, even our prose growing ever speedier.

Then, if we’re lucky and live near the edge of the great light bubble, we escape. We pare down, turn off, retain only essential ties. There’s enough food to keep us alive for days. A bird feeder draws summer close. A great expense of lake stretches in many directions, captures clouds and waves, a few loons. We have a horizon again.

Even so, I’m reluctant to wait out the light. It takes a long while for nerves and muscle to release the energy of arrival and departure, schedules and commitments. For many days I fall asleep before the light has completely left the sky.

As time relaxes, I dive deeper into memory and image. Lines begin to sing in my head. One night I am alert. I wait up. When deep dark has arrived, I step outside. The night sky is aswarm with stars. Caverns and archipelagos, ice caps and mountains, worlds I can barely imagine they are so distant. Yet they shine down on me. A plane or two chugs across. A shower of meteors darts like sky minnows. With luck, northern lights throw green veils across the dark. I have become the infinitessimally small in the vastness of time, space and stars.

Poetry comes from this kind of wonder. Even if the emotion is not subdued, but pounds and shatters, it must arrive in language that has looped beyond the commercial bubble. It must stretch far and wide. It must try to see in the dark.

Not only has my own poetry flourished during my lucky tenure with the Laurel Poetry Collective, but my experience of what is possible has stretched enormously as I’ve been surrounded by this company of star gazers. It’s not that we hear the same voices in the dark. But that singly or together, we step outside and seek to be awed, amazed, surprised by what constantly exists, yet is usually very hard to see. In 2012, we will publish our last anthology. It’s time to celebrate our years, more than a decade long, of plucking poetry out of the dark.

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