Stories and poems

"The metaphoric image of 'orphan lines' is a contrivance of the detached onlooker to whom the verbal art of continuous correspondences remains aesthetically alien. Orphan lines in poetry of pervasive parallels are a contradiction in terms, since whatever the status of a line, all its structure and functions are indissolubly interlaced with the near and distant verbal environment, and the task of linguistic analysis is to disclose the levels of this coaction. When seen from the inside of the parallelistic system, the supposed orphanhood, like any other componential status, turns into a network of multifarious compelling affinities.'
Roman JAKOBSON, "Grammatical Parallelism and its Russian Facet", Language, 42/2, 1966, pp. 399-429, p. 428-429

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Gold Can Stay

The Connecticut River in fall from the train
I’ve been thinking a lot about my writing and it’s connection to place, and about writing in general and how it often springs from our experience of a place, how the land fuels writing in a mysterious way. Does the poet give voice to the land, a kind of land ventriloquist? Certainly the poet often speaks for the land, channels spirit of land, learns to hear the songs the seep up from the earth like water in a boggy place. I put my foot down and the words come up around and in between my toes. On the land, the words come. I’ve been writing from the land.

A year ago I returned to live on the land I’ve known the longest and most deeply on this my current trip to Earth. I wasn’t born there but I’ve returned consistently for different periods of time since I was born and I feel attached to it in a way I imagine people must feel who have stayed on the piece of land on which they were born. I know the rocks and the trees; I know the lay of the land. I recognize the curve in the road. It’s like the face of a friend. It’s in Northern Vermont, and since I’ve been here I’ve been thinking of the writers who write and wrote in this state. It’s a good place to write. Robert Frost’s poems touch me deeply when I am here; reading him here makes me feel the meaning of his poems more keenly. This fall a poem of his kept running through my mind as I admired the leaves turning: Nothing Gold Can Stay. It’s a poem he wrote for spring, which I’ve always loved because it comes so very close to describing that first green I love so much that comes before the leaves have opened, just after the red buds of the maple trees have begun to blush. Riding a train down the Connecticut River this fall I read it again.

Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

It’s a fine poem because the lines are short and the rhythm and rhyme are regular; it reads like an incantation. It speaks to the concise innocence of spring, and it also calls on the melancholy feeling one has when one remembers the brevity of sweetness, how blossoms and kisses are fleeting and don’t last and how one would like to hang on to them. Both the meaning of words and the form of the poem speak all this to me, which I think makes it strong. I think the land spoke this poem to him. Pondering the fall, I responded with this. I tried to follow his form as I could and also contrast his brevity with the permanence I feel sometimes on the land when I feel its cycles. I wanted to say, The Gold, It Stays:

The peak is past and yet the gold,
Intemporal sap at the heart of things,
A promise in scarlet of cold to come,
Reminds me of what stays.
This season of dying calls the green again,
This ending beginning of diamond days
reflecting casts and beams of light,
the gold, it stays.

Here I’m not sure if I’m writing from the land. I’m editing it at a distance from the train ride inspiration of my scribbles and channeled poetic intuition. I’ve made my lines fit his, more or less, but missed the conciseness that is so lovely in his. I’m writing in another place and time. I’m responding to the poet, who was a man. I often think of how I’m always conscious of writing and reading as a woman. It doesn’t go away. Also here, we have the reminder of Eden, and so of Eve and her fall, and I want to push all that away. The leaves to me do not recall this fall from grace. And I see I've put a “me” into the poem, which he didn’t. Sometimes I just want to say and do the opposite of all the men offered to me as models, like a child who wants to protest all this dominion. I want a way to say what I want in my own way. But often I still say to myself, Nothing gold can stay. Maybe I wanted to show how one statement often holds its opposite, which is the irony of the poem as well. His poem stays with me, despite the impermanence it describes, like its engraved on my heart. The gold is too, the gold permanence of my forest home. And I like that, that Nature’s last green is gold too. The trees told me that.

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