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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Little One

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Little One


my own thoughted crumb,
what will you be?

seated, windowed, bound and papered
here
like me?

or full-sailed, wind-carried, faraway and
wild
like the constant, bumping sea?

light in my window, ink
on my page, you are mine,
but remember

as I say this
I set you free


~ Ruth M.



Listen to a podcast of this poem here.

I was going to leave it there, this post. But I just read something by Robert Frost that echoes this small poem of mine. "Little One" could be about a poem, or a future grandchild. Which? Who knows, and that is the surprise of it. Which brings me to Frost.

I've had Robert Frost on my mind. The reason? Because this week marks the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy (November 22, 1963), an event I always think of as Thanksgiving approaches. I often associate JFK with the image of 86-year-old Robert Frost in black and white at the JFK inaugural lectern January 20, 1961 (I was four), that bitterly cold day when he couldn't read the words of the poem he'd hand written for the inauguration, so instead he recited another from memory. (Read both the dedication poem he intended to read, but couldn't because of poor eyesight, and the poem he actually recited that cold day, "The Gift Outright," here.)

In 1939, Frost wrote an essay about writing poems titled The Figure a Poem Makes. I hadn't read it before today, after finishing my small poem, above. I agree completely with his claim, that a poem must reveal itself, that you can't know at the outset of writing what it will become. You can read the entire essay The Figure a Poem Makes here. Below I will quote passages that resonated for me today:

quotes from The Figure a Poem Makes, by Robert Frost
~ If it is a wild tune, it is a poem. Our problem then is, as modern abstractionists, to have the wildness pure; to be wild with nothing to be wild about. 
~ It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. No one can really hold that the ecstasy should be static and stand still in one place. It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life-not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion. It has denouement. It has an outcome that though unforeseen was predestined from the first image of the original mood-and indeed from the very mood. It is but a trick poem and no poem at all if the best of it was thought of first and saved for the last. It finds its own name as it goes and discovers the best waiting for it in some final phrase at once wise and sad-the happy-sad blend of the drinking song.
~ No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. 
~ The line will have the more charm for not being mechanically straight. We enjoy the straight crookedness of a good walking stick. Modern instruments of precision are being used to make things crooked as if by eye and hand in the old days.
~ I tell how there may be a better wildness of logic than of inconsequence. But the logic is backward, in retrospect, after the act. It must be more felt than seen ahead like prophecy. It must be a revelation, or a series of revelations, as much for the poet as for the reader. 
~ Scholars and artists thrown together are often annoyed at the puzzle of where they differ. Both work from knowledge; but I suspect they differ most importantly in the way their knowledge is come by. Scholars get theirs with conscientious thoroughness along projected lines of logic; poets theirs cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books. 
~ For myself the originality need be no more than the freshness of a poem run in the way I have described: from delight to wisdom. The figure is the same as for love. Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it. Read it a hundred times: it will forever keep its freshness as a petal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded by surprise as it went.

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Painting: Clouds and Water, by Arthur Dove
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47 comments:

Dan Gurney said...

That's a lovely, sweet poem, Ruth. Somehow it reminds me of a tree, rooted, and releasing seed pods of love into the wind to fly far, far away.

Dutchbaby said...

When I read your poem, my heart skipped a beat, thinking you were about to make new family announcement. I love all your thoughted crumbs, Ruth, even when I guess wrong.

Despite Frost's lyrical advice, I will leave poetry to wordsmiths like you, Lorenzo, and George. I shall spare the world and restrict myself to the visual arts.

I've been gone too long from synch'. Miss visiting.

Meri said...

I loved listening to your voice, giving life to your poem. It had a resonance even greater than that of words on the page. And I am going to go back and pore over Frost's essay. I couldn't absorb it all on one short reading. Now I'm off to see your "panties" post to see what you have to say...........

Ruth said...

Dan, that's beautiful, thank you for the image of seed pods of love on the wind. Ahh, I want that ...

Ruth said...

Hello, Dutchbaby, it's so good to see you. Yes, I've missed your presence here.

I am wallowing in the dream of a one-day announcement myself. It's kind of fun dancing with my grandmother self on my imagination's terrace.

I rely on you to go on visuals-smithing. Your post on Irving Penn still fills my vision.

Ruth said...

Hello, Meri. Thank you for listening to the podcast, so much. I just read an interview with W.S. Merwin, in which he said people often don't understand poetry because they don't hear it. He says poetry, unlike prose, has to be heard. I wasn't planning to record this one today, and then when I read that, I decided to go ahead. It's short and rather pause-y, not the easiest to read aloud, but I like this idea of poetry being heard, which connects us with centuries, even millenniums of oral poetry.

Barb said...

I think the best writing allows the reader to extrapolate and to bring a consciousness and interpretation to what is written that maybe even the writer didn't foresee. So it is with your poem, Ruth. All of us might read and interpret it in a different way than you intended, depending on our own experiences. That expansiveness is a gift which you seem to possess. I love Frost's metaphor of the line as a crooked staff and the idea of a poem beginning in delight and ending in wisdom.

George said...

I love your brief poem, Ruth, because it contains a mystery than calls me into the center, where there is that magical dance between author and reader. I have never encountered a "thoughted crumb," but I am intrigued, which is to say you have set the hook quite nicely.

I also love much of what Frost has to say (thanks so much for sharing this). A good poem is a "wild tune" that "begins in delight and ends in wisdom;" it ends in "a clarification" that is "a momentary stay of confusion." It will have "more charm for not being mechanically straight."

And this: "No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." Conversely, where there were tears for the reader, there must have been tears for the writer," which may explain something about my first comments on the previous post.

A wonderful, thought-provoking post, Ruth. "Little One" begins with the delight of something novel like a "thoughted crumb" and ends with something wise — a release into freedom.

Margaret Bednar said...

I read (and then listened) to your poem and at first I thought of a baby. Second time through, I thought of the words on the page being sent forth and who, if anyone, will they touch. I sit down with a book of poetry now, and I EXPECT to read it a least twice through. For that is the correct way to read it, I realize now. :) Your sentiment in this poem is sweet - words have the ability to change peoples lives - confidence can be given to someone or a deep insecurity can be formed by words we choose to use.

I will have to absorb the rest of you post later. I feel these next 5 days are going to be pretty jam packed... I will have to catch up on all my blogging on Friday! Have a very happy Thanksgiving.

Pauline said...

I love your little poem and read it several times through just because I liked the way the words are so personal. This one little thoughted crumb is delightful! Thanks for sharing.

Marcie said...

I just love the sentiment in this..especially your own little 'Little One' poem!

Gwei Mui said...

I love the simplicity your poem, uncluttered and "pure". I have always enjoyed the work of Frost so it was a real delight and pleasure to read and learn more about the poet. Thank you

Ruth said...

Thank you, Barb, I'm glad you feel I managed to do that with this poem. One of the aspects of writing a poem that I love is how I never know at the outset what it will become. Sometimes it's daunting to find a "way in" to the writing. But I find that if I start getting my initial thoughts down, it doesn't take too long to find a metaphor that begins to shape it. And yes, isn't that crooked-yet-straight walking stick a wonderful image?

Ruth said...

George, I'm so glad you love my poem. Thank you. Maybe as with your photographic images of unexpected beauty in ordinary places, which I've heard you say are meaningful to you and you wonder if anyone else will find them beautiful, the thoughts (thoughted or otherwise) that come to me in poem form might be meaningful to me, yet I can't predict how someone else will receive them. There is that momentary chasm until someone responds that the creator wonders, Will this connect with someone else? When the magic reverberation happens between people, then we understand the point, and thrill, of creative expression.

I was delighted by Frost's piece, especially not having read any of his prose before.

Ruth said...

Hi, Margaret, thank you for reading my poem twice, and listening to the podcast. I think I've told you that in my poetry writing group I always had to read my co-writers' poems through twice to begin to get the meaning. Good poems provide more and more with every reading. Yes, what you say about what different people can take away is so true. I think of Merwin's poems of a couple of posts ago.

It's Thanksgiving week, and yes, it will be especially busy. I hope yours will be full of joys and health.

Ruth said...

Oh thank you, Pauline. I'm delighted at your response!

Ruth said...

Marcie, thank you.

Ruth said...

Gwei Mui, thank you for those kind words. I'm happy you enjoy Frost too. There probably isn't a better known poet from our country, I'm guessing. His work is accessible and stands the test of time too.

Susan said...

As I read Frost's words, at the end of every point I was saying to myself "yes". I don't write poetry often, but when I do, the first line or a phrase just comes to me out of the blue and I know then and there that it is a poem, begging to be finished. And they always happen FAST. I do go back and rework it a little sometimes, but the ending always surprises me a little.

I always love your poems, Ruthie. This one immediately planted a sweet, soft-skinned "little one" in my mind and made me smile.

Ginnie said...

I can just imagine what you will write, dear sister, the day it is your future grandchild. :)

*jean* said...

love, my own thoughted crumb...and frost...

Friko said...

You truly are a poet;

I am only just taking the first tentative steps on to the shining path that takes the poet all the way from the shifting sands of the beach to the flight of the sun and moon on the horizon.

Frost is a favourite, I frequently read him; it would be helpful to read the book you mention.

Poetry is/has always been a great love but I have never been brave enough to attempt to write it.
Blogging, and reading other bloggers' attempts makes me feel a little less hesitant, although I do, by no means, like all of the poems posted.

Anonymity is a great help in overcoming embarrassment at one's clumsy efforts.

Char said...

i admire poets - their ability to write something that is so heartfelt and beautiful. i do not have that gift for verse but i get to admire yours. please keep sharing these beauties.

Deborah said...

Yes, Friko is right, you truly are a poet. Whatever doubt you might have about that within yourself is not shared by us, fortunate enough to be given the gift of your talent in this place. I marvel at the things you say and the way you say them, and am only sorry that my appreciation takes such plain form. It doesn't do your poetry justice.

Jean Spitzer said...

I enjoyed reading this and then listening to you read your poem and set it free.

ds said...

"thoughted crumb" Mmmmm...
This is so lovely, so complete and so lovely. A quiet gem.

How can I describe? How will I ever describe, when you gift the world like this?

Loring Wirbel said...

I never thought about the Frost-Kennedy connection. Yet it's appropriate! Wonderful post.

deb said...

You are a wonder.

And thank you thank you for teaching, and sharing , and making me a better person. Making me want to be a better person.

Words illuminate.

thank you for yours and the ones you highlight.
and the ones you receive in your comments.

Terresa said...

..."poets theirs cavalierly and as it happens in and out of books."

I wrote just last night a blog post about digressions, and Frost confirms my suspicions. I am no scholar, I am a poet. :)

Ruth said...

Susie, I'm convinced some poems are in the air, ready to descend into our mind-hearts.

Thank you, I'm glad you liked this little one. Won't I be just calling you when the day comes!

Ruth said...

Boots :)

I may not be able to write!

Ruth said...

Jean, thank you, my dear.

Ruth said...

Friko, since I enjoy your prose so much, I need to venture over to your poetry blog, which I haven't done yet. I didn't realize that you were just starting out in that genre. Good that your pseudonym helps you be bold!

I like reading new poems by Frost, new to me I mean, because I tend to reread the familiar ones. He was quite prolific, and yes, this essay of prose is very helpful.

Ruth said...

Char, if poets didn't have readers, where would we be? I appreciate your kind words very much.

Ruth said...

Deborah, what kindness you say to me. You know how I feel about your writing, I could read that book of yours (when you get it done) in one sitting, I think, for I won't want to put it down. So I receive your praise of my poesy with glad arms. But "plain form" ? Hardly, Deborah. Nothing you do could be plain. Simple, yes. Straightforward, yes. Plain, no.

Ruth said...

Jean, brilliant. When I read it, I set it free. Thank you.

Ruth said...

DS, oh you. You already did, describe it, from your gentle heart. Just like that.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Loring. I did not know until I wrote this post that Frost did not read the poem he intended to. Quite a relief, I'd say, as it was long, and they all would have had to sit there a lot shivery-longer. I don't really like these two poems much, actually, Frost's linked ones for the inauguration I mean.

Ruth said...

Deb, won't you sit a while longer? :) You fill my salon with honey and light, and make me want to write a thousand more words, just for you. How wonderful that you and I light these lights for each other, no?

Ruth said...

Terresa, you expressed my book digressions precisely in your post. I am amazed by the scholars in my department, who dive down so deeply into a topic, down to the core of the earth, reading every book and article available about it. I am a skimmer, a bug on the water, or the bird grabbing that bug. It feels fine, doesn't it, Poetess? :)

Peter said...

When I read your "little" poem, I feel that you have nothing to be envious about, compared to Frost or any other poet! (Anyhow, you are probably not of an envious nature.)

Ruth said...

Peter :) I am envious sometimes of other poets, though I may not be of an envious nature in general. :)

Thank you, my friend.

Oliag said...

I see in this poem Frost's description of a poem... "It begins in delight (My own thoughted crumb...) and ends in wisdom(I set you free). The figure is the same as for love."

I loved Robert Frost before I had read very much poetry...like Mary Oliver I find him very New Englandy in his images and for that I can connect even without understanding.

I am printing out this poem and tucking it away for the day I may feel inspired to write...

Ruth said...

Oliag, thank you for your kind words about the poem. I would love it if you started writing poems too.

I also think of Frost as New Englandy, but did you know he was born in San Francisco?

The Solitary Walker said...

Catching up on my favourite blogs having been away for a while... Your post here, Ruth, is a sheer delight. I've copied out the quotes from Robert Frost. They resonated strongly with me too. Your poem is perfectly lovely. And I think it would have pleased Frost, for does it not lead us crookedly (though elegantly) through revelation to an unexpected place? I think it does.

BTW, thanks for your comment on my blog about Gorecki. I hadn't heard about his death, so was quite saddened, though apparently he had been ill for a while. What a wonderful, haunting, heart-rending musical legacy he left.

Ruth said...

Hello there, Robert! Terrific to see you back.

I'm so pleased that Frost's thoughts resonate with you too. And thank you for your kind words about "Little One." Writing poems is such a free flowing process in some ways (and blasted hard work in others), and the rewards can be beautiful, especially when there is a surprise revelation for the poet her or himself. I'm addicted!

Yes, I was quite sad to read of Gorecki's death, especially since I had just learned about him from you. That video you posted is one I keep going back to, just tremendously moving.

Jeanie said...

First of all, your poem and the art to illustrate it -- wonderful.

Second, the Frost piece -- No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader... WOW. I need to print that line out and hang it over my desk!

Thanks.