All week I have been searching for the perfect poem to feature today on Poetry Wednesday. I have two book reviews coming up and both authors are poets (Madeleine L’Engle and Deborah Larsen), but I couldn’t find any complete or reliable examples of their poetry online and didn’t have time to request anything from the library, so a Poetry Wednesday that coincided with those reviews was out of the question. I had The Best American Poetry 2003 checked out from the library, so I decided to give that ago. Let me just say, I’ve been so disappointed! Nothing in here is really very interesting at all, and maybe it’s just because it was all very trendy stuff 7 years ago that just isn’t my aesthetic, but I’ve only liked 3 or 4 poems I’ve read out of at least 100. Finally, though, after reading 3/4 of the book, I found a poem that I thought suited my tastes and Poetry Wednesday. Maybe one day I’ll include a poem I don’t really like so we can talk about that, but not today. Today I have a poem by Ruth Stone, a local Virginia poet who I think I will like very much. I’m thrilled to have found her work and hope to read more. Here is the poem chosen for today, titled “Lines”.
Voice, perhaps you are the universe,
the hum of spiders.
If on the mountain a single bear
comes into the orchard;
much less, the husk of a locust
drops from the currant bush;
or the wind rattles a loose clapboard,
exchanging one skin for another –
it is the self longing to cross the barrier.
Sensing the visitors who hide among us,
the air enters and takes away.
Sharp as the odor of fresh sawdust,
the color of lost rooms,
those erotic odors, angst of brevity;
like crossing your thighs
in a spasm of loneliness.
A lot of times, it’s better to know nothing about the author. A poem should be able to stand alone, and I believe this one does. However, the life story of the poet adds even more to this poem. I know that some people say we should ignore the life story and history of the author, but I think it can be a good thing. No the poet does not always talk about himself or herself, but they often do. Let’s look at Stone’s history: Ruth Stone grew up on rural Virginia and in 1959, her husband committed suicide, leaving her alone to raise three children. I read this poem before knowing that and again after. Those last five lines are so poignant when you put it in that context. The more I read this poem, the more it moves me.