The Poetic Impulse

posted in: Poetry, Writing | 0

Walking the neighborhood this time of year with the azalea bushes blushing from winter’s nip under their skirts, the “green fuse” sparks, and I’m channeling some great poet whose name I’ve forgot.

Words form in my head as I stride along, and soon I’m sounding to myself like the sly Polish poet, Nobel-prize-winner, Wislawa Symborska. She died recently. Her Polish was direct but difficult to translate. She made up words. She took bullies down to size: Hitler, for instance, who invaded Poland in 1939. Who is this someone in his itty-bitty something? So I half-remember one of her lines.

I’ve far from memorized her work (in translation), but its impulse to find irony in common voice energizes me. Like a careful botanist, she scrutinzes humankind under a microscope. With a bemused expression.

Words or more like an attitude form in my head:

It’s come to my attention
that I’m on the job today,
along with leaves pushing
into their socket.

No namby-pamby
camel vitamins for me.
I’ll swallow a thousand
meagwhams, ten-
thousand gametes.

On I walked, lines pumping me full of purpose, making themselves up we moved along. How odd, I think in retrospect. The renowned Wislawa lay on her couch, paper propped up ready for the pen. But that scarcely ever works for me, if you can call “working” this flow of notion that is lost virtually as it’s formed, leaving nothing but a sense of camaraderie with the day and a good stretch to the legs.

For years, Emily has been my muse, meaning I can channel her too, having seen her upstairs room facing a street corner, her low table and chair–she was a small woman–spread with papers while a pen of sorts stands erect. It’s helped recently to read Lyndel Gordon’s “Lives Like Loaded Guns” where I learned that Emily woke at 3 a.m. and did much of her writing in that intense hush before dawn. Then she slept, her father and sister excusing her from most housework.

No one does that for me (I’m not complaining–there are the electric friends), but the predawn impulse to rise and skim the words off the half-dreaming brain before they sink, leaden into day–that too is mine. Often I’m sitting before the lighted screen writing this blog, while the house and neighborhood are hushed with sleep. No bird sounds. No whoosh of wheels past the closed window. This dark is potent, fluid. No telling where it will take me on this journey into a kind of waking dream.

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