I’ve always been hesitant to read poetry. I don’t know enough about how poems are built to really understand the intricacies poets pour into their work, so I’ve always felt like I was missing most of what’s happening. But I’ve been working hard to read more poetry over the last couple of years and have been excited to see so many of my blogging friends writing about it lately. Given that it’s National Poetry Month, I’ve decided to revive my little A Sunday Poem tradition to honor the poems I’ve been thinking about lately.

You might remember that I had been working through Wendell Berry’s This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems — I still am! And this week I read a poem from this volume that made me smile:

Poem, do not raise your voice.
Be a whisper that says “There!”
where the stream speaks to itself
of the deep rock of the hill
it has carved its way down to
in flowing over them, “There!”
where the sun enters and the tanager
flares suddenly on the lighted branch,
“There!” where the aerial columbine
brightens on its slender stalk.
Walk, poem. Watch, and make no noise.

Wendell Berry, This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems

Watch, and make no noise. That sentence sums up a lot for me right now. It’s been a big takeaway for me while reading The New Seeds of Contemplation and as I think about the direction I want to take this blog.

Sometimes I think poetry is like tarot cards – they can’t read the future or tell us about our past, but they can help us tap into the hidden places in our brains and pull out narratives that we’ve been writing for a long time without realizing.

I’m feeling frustrated right now. I’m reading and listening to so much and I feel like there’s something there that I can really dig into and write about, but then I lose it. I hear a sentence on a podcast and I think that’s it! and then it’s gone. I underline a sentence in a book and say, a ha! This is what’s happening! and then that sentence gets lost in a sea of more underlined sentences and I can’t find it anymore. I can’t even remember what it was about.

Watch, and make no noise.

This poem has reminded me that it’s nothing to rush. Everything I’m reading and learning – it’s all being distilled and will come out when the time is right. Wendell Berry is my hero and always manages to say exactly what I need to hear.

I hope to share A Sunday Poem each week this month. Perhaps I’ll even share something other than Wendell Berry (but I doubt it)! I’m planning to return from this week’s blogging break and share a little something from my 5 Year Journal tomorrow – I hope to spend some time with you then!

14 thoughts

  1. I’ve been writing poetry since I was about 5-6 yrs old. It comes as natural for me as breathing, maybe even more so. When we had the housefire, I lost 25 years of work with only a handful surviving because my old English teacher still had copies of the ones I’d submitted for Young Authors, and the school newspaper. That experience taught me to keep multiple copies of writings in different media and locations. As I often tell my Hubby, poetry is a reflection of the author’s soul, sometimes it isn’t meant to be understood. I do like the poem you shared it fits really well with your picture, too. This new format for WP is crimping my style with sharing poetry. It wrecks havoc on stanzas and the general overall-ness of them. Grrrrr….

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      1. Bear – thank you for sharing this link! I’m going to hop over and read it now. And thanks for your thoughts on poetry — I’ve always been amazed by people who take to it so naturally… I definitely struggle with it!

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  2. Welcome back! There is much about life these days that would be best if it were quiet … and that goes for me as well šŸ™‚

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  3. As a shy introvert, watching and listening and being quiet has always been my M.O. There are plenty of times when I’d like to write or say something but can’t quite find the right words, and like you, I find that frustrating. But I’ve also found that I tend to form my thoughts better when I allow myself the time to fully collect my thoughts and mull everything.

    Re: reading poetry, I just started listening to the Novel Pairings podcast (thanks to Mary’s recommendation!), and I’ve been listening to the older episodes from the beginning. Just yesterday I listened to the episode they did about poetry, and they mentioned how many people are wary of reading poetry because they assume there’s a “right” way to read a poem and worry they won’t get it. But they emphasized that that’s not really true, and one of the joys of poetry is that you can read it and take from it whatever you want — especially if you’re not reading it in an English class and have to do an assignment on it!

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    1. I’m also a shy introvert and have always done the exact same thing! And sometimes I need a reminder that it’s okay to do that, because I get a lot of bad feedback about that in my real life (especially from my in-laws!).

      And thanks for the reminder about enjoying poetry no matter what… it’s true, I know. And still – the overachiever in me wants to know that I’m reading it “correctly” and understanding the intent of the author. Impossible – I know! And still!

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  4. I think Sarah is very right… there is not a right way or a wrong way to read poetry and not all poetry speaks to me. But the poetry that does is incredible. I think that Wendell Berry is a beautiful poet… perhaps I would say that he is a brilliant wordsmith. How he puts words/thoughts/ideas together speaks volumes to me! I really am looking forward to seeing what you share this month! šŸ™‚

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    1. Yes – I love Wendell Berry so much! I’m happy that we have a whole month to focus on poetry and I’m looking forward to following along with your poetry posts as well šŸ™‚

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  5. Thanks for sharing this! I need to get some Wendell Berry because I know I would enjoy him.
    I started writing poetry when I was about 8 years old – I don’t know where that came from, it just happened. I know that we had a contest that was sponsored by a nearby bookstore (sadly long since closed) and I guess that sparked my interest? Anyway, I have always enjoyed reading it and it makes me sad that so many people come away from school with bad experiences of poetry. I think poetry is something anyone can come to love if they have a good teacher along the way or one good experience – and I’m glad you’re becoming more comfortable with it!

    Have you read Kate Baer? I’ve just gotten into her and I think you would like her stuff.

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    1. Kate Baer is totally new to me – thank you!! And I was surprised by how much I enjoy Wendell Berry – I hope you get to read something by him soon!!

      And I didn’t know you wrote poetry! That’s so cool!

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