Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Poetry Corner

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David Wagoner was born on June 5th, 1926 in Ohio and raised in Indiana. In 1954 he moved to the Pacific Northwest, which he recalled as “…a big event for me, it was a real crossing of a threshold, a real change of consciousness. Nothing was ever the same again.” The natural environment of the Pacific Northwest became the subject of much of his poetry. Wagoner died in late 2021 at age 95.

The Poets Agree to Be Quiet by the Swamp

David Wagoner

They hold their hands over their mouths
And stare at the stretch of water.
What can be said has been said before:
Strokes of light like herons’ legs in the cattails,
Mud underneath, frogs lying even deeper.
Therefore, the poets may keep quiet.
But the corners of their mouths grin past their hands.
They stick their elbows out into the evening,
Stoop, and begin the ancient croaking.

Whenever I read this poem, I think of these lyrics in “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” (from Showboat):

Fish got to swim, birds got to fly,

I got to love one man till I die….

 

Because—like fish got to swim, birds got to fly, and we love because we got to— poets got to “croak,” i.e., write.  It’s just in them. As a further line in the song goes: “It mus’ be sumpin’ dat de angels done plan.”  By angels, or the Muse, poets are blessed.  Their desire to communicate their wisdom, wit, truth, cannot be repressed. Even though they know that everything has been said before, they need to say it in their unique way. The poets may keep quiet, but they do not. Even if they cover their mouths, their mouths “grin past their hands” and they “begin the ancient croaking. (writing). Because they got to. Writing is their passion, their obsession, their compulsion, their love.

 

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