Sunday, December 24, 2006

Nature and Poetry

Recently a discussion about blind people writing haiku and people writing from imagination versus direct experience occurred on a workshop list. I had the following comments to make:

Experiencing nature directly provides material which can be turned into a poem now or later. I see a definite difference between poems written from those written from direct experience and those which are only imaginary. This is not to say that one is superior to the other, but I much prefer those written from direct experience myself. They are much more likely to offer new insights and to avoid the risk of being vague or generic.

Consider the difference:

summer day
birds on pylons
one different

summer day at the port,
a seagull among the baygulls
perched upon the pylon

How many people realize how many different kinds of seagulls there are? And would a person assume 'marina' or even 'riverfront' unless they were told 'port?' And having picked 'port' doesn't it call to mind other resonances, such as a big container ship among the much smaller pleasure craft, as compared to the seagull among the baygulls? Etc.

These truths of the world do not need to be viewed directly with the eyes, and your blind friend is very wise to point out the importance of perceiving the world through other methods. All too often, those of us who can see base our poetry on what we perceive with our eyes, but the other senses are just as important. In poetry they can be extremely effective for the simple reason that the other senses show up much less frequently than sight, and are therefore more likely to be fresh.

after scurrying
across the cement floor
in bare feet,
how welcome the warmth
of the laundry room


NB. 'Baygull' is local terminology for inland gulls; they're on the Chesapeake Bay, not the sea, so they must be a 'baygull,' right? True seagulls are huge by comparison to baygulls.

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