Randomness & poems

The past weeks unloaded upon the blogger a host of responsibilities and reasons for reflection: reams of student essays to read and grade, piles of snow and the resultant delays and work closure leading to backlogs, and such usual complaints. In addition, the dropping-of-everything while attending to the death of our no-longer-resident nonagenarian, not to mention the bureaucratic heaps of forms and notifications that follow a passing.

I’m writing poems. It seems to be what I need to do at present, despite the state of my household environment and the backlog at work.Untitled-writer

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The blizzard put my gardening on hold, though I remembered to purchase some seeds and thus can get to the tomato-starting process within a week or so. Before the snow came, I did get outside to prune and deadhead a bit while the weather was unseasonably warm. A little at a time. Such things are sustaining to me, emotionally.

And watching the birdfeeders has been soothing and delightful. Today a small nuthatch joined the party. My youngest cat spends large segments of his day crouched by the window, as fascinated as I am (but for different reasons, I suppose).

scoot window

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I am thinking of a friend-in-poetry who has need of special care and financial assistance while going through and recuperating from some extremely painful, delicate, dangerous and potentially-disabling surgery-&-rehab. She will need more than the initial $4K this GoFundMe portal suggests, so if any of my readers feel inclined toward a random act of (financial) kindness: Jessamyn’s Medical Fundraiser. Thanks.

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Addendum: Yes, I’m sticking to my determination to read more poetry. And it is helping. Most recently, re-reading early Li-Young Lee, Mark Doty’s Deep Lane, Dave Bonta’s Ice Mountain: An Elegy, and a really wonderful new collection by Kim Roberts: The Scientific Method.

 

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Hail and Heidegger

hail and roses

Another freakish, brief summer storm swept through–this time bringing wind, fog, downpours, and hail. Not a gardener’s favorite weather system under any circumstances. Some years ago, a June 9 hailstorm literally decimated (reduced by 10%…though I think it was more like 25%) my gardens and produced the mammatus cloudforms that show up on my “About” page. Yesterday’s hailstorm was–thankfully–not as damaging. Most of the plants will recover fairly rapidly, I think.

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Meanwhile, I’m trying to educate myself a bit more on the history of phenomenology as it relates to poetry, art, and poetics by reading a bit of Martin Heidegger. This is a backwards chronology, but I’m not feeling ready to take up Husserl yet. Heidegger’s also problematic because of his early embrace of the Nazi party (he resigned early, too, in 1938, but never made a full repudiation). I understand that great thinkers can nonetheless be very flawed human beings. Michael Wheeler’s thorough essay in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy touches on some of the contradictions and covers Heidegger’s major work. But I am reading Hofstadter’s translation of “Poetry, Language, Thought” and six other shorter essays, such as “What Are Poets For?” and “The Origin of a Work of Art.” Actually, it is hard to consider the first text as an essay. It’s more like a poem in aphorisms. An excerpt:

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When through a rent in the rain-clouded
sky a ray of sun suddenly glides
over the gloom of the meadows .  .  .  .

We never come to thoughts. They come
to us.

That is the proper hour of discourse.

Discourse cheers us to companionable
reflection. Such reflection neither
parades polemical opinions nor does it
tolerate complaisant agreement. The sail
of thinking keeps trimmed hard to the
wind of the matter.

From such companionship a few perhaps
may rise to be journeymen in the
craft of thinking. So that one of them,
unforeseen, may become a master.

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Almost Confucian, no?

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Later in his life, Heidegger moved on from his earlier philosophizing on the ontology of being (he pointed out the need to define “exist” as a premise in any such inquiry) and began to suggest that art exists within the materials/tools of the artist as well as within the artist’s being and abilities, all in a perhaps simultaneous collection of conditions. Wheeler says, “poiesis is to be understood as a process of gathering together and fashioning natural materials in such a way that the human project in which they figure is in a deep harmony with, indeed reveals—or as Heidegger sometimes says when discussing poiesis, brings forth—the essence of those materials and any natural environment in which they are set.”

Heidegger writes, for example, that “a true cabinetmaker…makes himself answer and respond above all to the different kinds of wood and to the shapes slumbering within wood—to wood as it enters into man’s dwelling with all the hidden riches of its essence. In fact, this relatedness to wood is what maintains the whole craft. Without that relatedness, the craft will never be anything but empty busywork…” Wheeler calls this manifestation of the art within the materials (which the artist must understand in order to use her talents and tools to bring forth) a “process of revealing.” Kin, I suppose, to the words often attributed to Michelangelo: I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

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Art, gardens, weather, poetry, the craft of thinking…all processes of revealing and transformation. “We never come to thoughts. They come to us.”ann e. michael hail foot

Not a dry spell

October arrived in a remarkably ordinary way, considering how inconsistent the weather in my valley has been during the past year. There were a few clear days of brilliant sky, some heavy breezes with leaves beginning to drift into the lawn, a couple of glorious autumn days–mild and crisp–followed by a spate of rain and humid air (and toadstools and mushrooms cropping up everywhere), a further yellowing and reddening of foliage, and then, chilly rain.

This is “normal” weather for our area in early- to mid-October. Although the heavy skies and damp chill are not always welcomed by residents, including me, the gardener in me feels relieved. We need the rain and the coming dormancy. The birds relish the late, large insects that frequent gutters and fields, ponds and puddles, providing proteins for a trip south or for winter ahead. Seeds need the watering-in and the cooling-down. Trees need reminders to store their nutrients deep inside when the cold air really sets in.

And pretty soon, I will have bulbs to plant. I want the soil to be moist enough to dig up and the ground temperature cool enough to keep the daffodils still and quiet for several months.

Some years, I write prolifically in autumn; it’s as though the change in season effects a kind of transition within me, and creativity abounds. Other years, not so much. I do notice that when I spend a good deal of time out in the garden, I write more. This fall has not been that kind of season. I have been busy with writing tasks that do not exercise the philosophical or metaphysical side of myself–though I have been writing, most of the work has been reviews, proposals, pedagogy.  I will be posting links to the reviews and essays on the sidebar to the right, adding to the list…

Should fortune–and the Muse–smile upon me, there may be a few new links to poems, as well, in the coming weeks. In November, I’ll be giving a few readings locally. In January, I’ll be teaching Introduction to Poetry again, and I’m eager to try new texts for my students.

Perhaps the post-equinox period will have a creative harvest after all.