Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Reading Poems for Writing Poems-Wendy Bishop

One of the most useful pointers I gleaned from this article was the recommendation to reread poems. Each time you return to a poem, the potential exists to learn something different or new about both it and yourself, writes Bishop. I found this to be very true. I can honestly say that I don't have that apppreciation for poetry that some do. In fact, I think of it as a chore. Perhaps that was some of my history that I was bringing to the experience. Reading the poems for this week, however, produced a new insight for me. I actually enjoyed some of the poems, especially upon closer and multiple readings. Usually, my first reading of the poem was a cursory glance to see if I could understand it without having to thing too much. Usually, I learned and gained very little from these types of readings. Once I started to slow down and actually move the words around in my hea, I began to understand some of what the authors were trying to communicate. With each reading, I gained a little bit more insight. I never really thought about the importance of rereads in poetry but like Wendy Bishop points out, each time you read a poem, you have a different attitude.

Crow Goes Hunting-Ted Hughes

I found myself first absorbed by the words in this poem and not so much its meaning at first. I found his language to be very powerful. I particulary liked his twist on the old cliche about the hare eating the crows words and leaving it speechless. With further readings, I found that the author was communicating not just the words themselves but the idea that words can give shape, create and just be. Relating this to our recent dicussions in the environment, I have to say it closely parallels the debate surrounding the existence of nature. What is nature but the words, phrases and values we assign to it, just like the crow transforming the hare into different things?

Botanical Gardens-Don Coles

The first thing I noticed about this poem was the imagery it conjured up for me. I could almost smell the rich forest loam and feel its coolness. Secondly, I asked the question, what is Frangula seliquastrum? I finally realized that this is the latin, binomial name of a plant. It contrasted with the everyday language we would have used to describe it, outside of a scientific paper or discussion. There was another parabole I found within this poem: stable, timeless, unchanging forests versus neurotic, unstable, impatient humans. The fact that there is no dialogue in nature and only humans use language to describe nature is another layer of meaning to this contrast. This idea also reverberates within our discussions about nature.

Some Remarks on Poetic Attention-Don McKay

I found this poem filled with metaphors and contrasts. Poetic attention, like bird watching, is suspended expectancy surrounding creatures that cannot be made to appear as in a zoo. Poetry as that "...wonderful useless musical machine." Words such as wonderously, tedious, negotiation and dominion. Poetry as a the antithesis to the controlling, reductive, categorical machine called technology. All of these examples are ideas that we have use to describe, delimit and talk about nature. I found myself reveling in the words of the poem which is perhaps goes back to an argument of environmental linguists which states that we see the trees in the forest as the rhetoric we have used to describe them.

Twinflower-Don McKay

This poem made me laugh out loud in library where I was reading it. I found it amusing that God should be prodding Adam to "get this show on the road" while Adam buries his head in the little white-pink flowers and inhales. On the other hand, we humans of today, are too busy classifying, researching and naming flowers to even partake of this simple yet obvious pleasure. I am reminded of the readings from Harre who discusses our obsession with taxonomy as a substitute for the real thing. Our blinded approach to seeing nature as pieces of a taxonomic whole causes us to miss the point of it all. This poem, I find, really drives the idea home.

Throughout the poems I noticed a theme of the repressiveness of the classification of nature. Several of the poems mentioned the categorization, reduction and machinization of nature as inappropriate and ridiculous. Indeed, in our lectures and readings so far, we have discussed how nature does not really exist save for the meanings we ascribe to it and the words we use in dialogue to refer to it. Perhaps it is because nature transcends the artificial boundaries that we give it and perhaps we will never truly come to understand our role with respect to nature if we continue to view it as such. My question, then, is that given this scenario, if we ever do manage to grasp the idea of nature within a much broader scope, will it actually cease to exist for us?