Friday, May 06, 2011

The Beautiful List

I've spoken about and shared list poems a couple of times before but I really don't think we can have too much of a good thing. List poems, done well, sing to us because of their deceptive simplicity: they wear the disguise of an ordinary everyday thing (shopping list, to do list etc) but the poet's choice of form and language lifts them up out of the ordinary and makes them extra-ordinary.

The following poem, by Tim Nolan, (which you can listen to HERE on The Writer's Almanac before you read it), slows our reading down with its short couplets. It asks us to pay the same amount of attention to the 'forgotten'. But this isn't just a poem about a literal change of season. The introduction of the human relationship in the middle of the poem - the flush of your face/ so much - asks me to reconsider the other imagery, the statements at the close of the poem, and the title as metaphor. Here it is and many thanks to Tim for giving his permission:

Long Winter

So much I've forgotten
the grass

the birds
the close insects

the shoot—the drip—
the spray of the sprinkler

the heat of the Sun

the impossible

the flush of your face
so much

the high noon
the high grass

the patio ice cubes
the barbeque

the buzz of them—
the insects

the weeds—the dear
weeds—that grow

like alien life forms—
all Dr. Suessy and odd—

here we go again—
we are turning around

again—this will all
happen over again—

and again—it will—

Tim Nolan

If you're in the UK or Europe
then check out the The Book Depository
for Tim's collection, The Sound of It.

What do you take from that penultimate couplet and the final line on its own? Inevitability, acceptance, understanding?

I take comfort from it; repetition in all its guises can be comforting. Although my comfort is tinged by inquietude. I'm not sure I want another long winter, I'm not sure that I want some things to happen over again. But I also know that my experience of life is deepened by living through change.

Poems that make us think, that shift us between different emotions, these are the ones to cherish.

I don't want to be prescriptive with a poetry prompt. Let this poem work on you through several readings then set out on a journey of your own.

Write well.