Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Poetry

As I have noted here before, a poem that has moved us remains with us, and can return at any time, unexpectedly and unaccountably. Last night, this floated up:

             Out There

Do they ever meet out there,
The dolphins I counted,
The otter I wait for?
I should have spent my life
Listening to the waves.

Michael Longley, The Ghost Orchid (Jonathan Cape 1995).

I have no idea why this arrived when it did.  But I was delighted.  It was with me as I fell asleep, and it greeted me when I awoke this morning.

James McIntosh Patrick (1907-1998), "A City Garden" (1940)

Poems live on inside you.  They accumulate.  Over time, they establish ever-changing connections with you and with each other. One poem leads to another: they travel outward, then circle back again.  This never stops.  They become stepping stones as you make your way through the World.  Yes, life is life, poetry is poetry, the World is the World.  But these small daily journeys -- many-pathed, never the same -- all add up.

Like today, for instance.  Five bright red tulips, the first of the year. Further on, an azalea bush, covered with white flowers that were not there a week ago.  And, all around, unceasing birdsong, pink-white magnolia blossoms in the blue sky.

     Simply trust:
Do not also the petals flutter down,
     Just like that?

Issa (1763-1828) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 2: Spring (Hokuseido Press 1950), page 363.

Stanley Spencer (1891-1959), "Scarecrow, Cookham" (1934)

Today I discovered that this is my thousandth post.  Imagine that.  All of these poems, paintings, and stray thoughts sent out into the ether for eleven years.  To what end?  The beautiful particulars of the World noted in passing, and with gratitude.  And, speaking of gratitude: thank you, dear readers.

To a mountain village
   at nightfall on a spring day
      I came and saw this:
blossoms scattering on echoes
   from the vespers bell.

Nōin (988-1050) (translated by Steven Carter), in Steven Carter, Traditional Japanese Poetry: An Anthology (Stanford University Press 1991), page 134.

Harold Jones (1904-1992), "The Black Door" (1935)

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your 1000th post! Thank you so much for your emails. I really enjoy them - the poems and paintings you choose and your commentary. I look forward to receiving them and appreciate the time and thought you put into them. You have introduced me to poets 'new to me' which has started a few searches on my part. I have learnt a lot from you. THANK YOU! Wishing you many happy years of enjoying your poetry books and sharing your thoughts with us.
With very best wishes, from Ann in Australia

Nige said...

Congratulations on the numerical milestone, Stephen. Your blog is a joy – long may it continue.

Janina said...

Thank you for your thousand posts. Always something that resonates. The images are a constant delight too.
All very quiet....

John Ashton said...

Stephen, I agree, poems certainly do live with us. I had a similar experience to your own a week or so ago. A poem by Czeslaw Milosz was on my mind all day, a poem I’ve known for many years and one I often come back to. You may know it.

We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going?
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.

Congratulations on your thousandth post. I’m so grateful to have discovered your blog. Thank you for the poems and paintings you share, some familiar, some previously unknown. It’s wonderful to be reminded of poems you have may not have read for a while and to make so many new discoveries.

gretchenjoanna said...

Let the petals of your poems, paintings and thoughts fall on me.

Pen said...

Dear Stephen, congratulations on your 1000th post. It seems fitting that such a milestone should be reached in your hemisphere's springtime, a thousand cherry blossom petals blown by aetherial breezes across the shifting internet. . . Had you reached this mark during autumn, I might have instead used the image of a thousand leaves, each gently drifting to and fro in equinoctial winds, from wherever you write to here - very far away - where I read. I look forward to each one. Much as I have laid up the treasure of petals and leaves and feathers and pinecones and butterfly wings which have fallen into my path over the years, so I tuck away your posts in my storehouse of delights. You remind me, constantly, in a place where no one and nothing else does, of why poetry matters and how much I love it. In this most recent post, I understood so deeply what you meant about waking up with a line or two. This week I have woken up to "the glory of the sum of things/ Will flash along the chords and go" (thank you, Sacred Alf). Sometimes the brief flash is all we need. Thank you for immeasurably enhancing my life; I wish you calm joy and peace. Pen

Tim Guirl said...

Mr. Pentz--Permit me to thank you for your 1,000 posts, all delightful and each unique. I have been reading your blog for a long time and have learned more about poetry than I ever could as an academic exercise.

The poem by Issa, with its opening words, "Simply trust" reminded me of an incident I read about in one of Frederick Buechner's books.

"I REMEMBER SITTING parked by the roadside once, terribly depressed and afraid about my daughter's illness and what was going on in our family, when out of nowhere a car came along down the highway with a license plate that bore on it the one word out of all the words in the dictionary that I needed most to see exactly then. The word was TRUST. What do you call a moment like that? Something to laugh off as the kind of joke life plays on us every once in a while? The word of God? I am willing to believe that maybe it was something of both, but for me it was an epiphany."

Stephen Pentz said...

Ann: Thank you very much for your kind words. I greatly appreciate your long-time presence here. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have found such wonderful readers and companions. My sole reason for starting the blog was to share the things I love with others, and it is gratifying and humbling to find that what has appeared here does at times resonate with others as well.

Thank you again. Take care.

Stephen Pentz said...

Nige: That's very nice of you to say. Thank you so much. But I owe you further thanks as well, and a debt of gratitude: it was your example (combined with that of Patrick Kurp and Mike Gilleland) that inspired me to embark on this journey. I am also grateful to you for having had the opportunity to play a small part in The Dabbler, which was an honor and a pleasure. And, on top of all that, thanks to you I have a keener eye for butterflies when I walk abroad in the World!

As ever, thank you very much for your kind thoughts. Best wishes to you and your loved ones.

Stephen Pentz said...

Janina: Thank you very much. "All very quiet . . .": I greatly appreciate that thought. Thank you. On a day-to-day basis that's hard to achieve (speaking for myself), but I turn to the poets and the painters (and the beautiful particulars of the World, of course) to remind me of the quietness. I can only hope that it appears here from time to time. That would be nice.

I'm happy you found your way here. Thank you again for your kind words. Take care.

Maggie Emm said...

To what end? To the enrichment and nourishment of those who are lucky enough to find you. I look forward to the next thousand oases of thoughtful peace and beauty!
Your posts remind me of a line in a Wendell Berry poem - 'I rest in the grace of the world, and am free'

Thomas Parker said...

They do indeed stay with you, become a part of the world and the way you experience it, and I think that's why when you first encounter a poem (or novel or painting or film or symphony or...) that you know will become a permanent part of the architecture of your life, it's such a thrilling experience. Two nights ago, in a little book of seasonal poems, I read this, by Christina Rossetti:


Another Spring


If I might see another Spring,
I’d not plant summer flowers and wait:
I’d have my crocuses at once,
My leafless pink mezereons,
My chill-veined snow-drops, choicer yet
My white or azure violet,
Leaf-nested primrose; anything
To blow at once, not late.

If I might see another Spring
I’d listen to the daylight birds
That build their nests and pair and sing,
Nor wait for mateless nightingale;
I’d listen to the lusty herds,
The ewes with lambs as white as snow,
I’d find out music in the hail
And all the winds that blow.

If I might see another Spring –
Oh stinging comment on my past
That all my past results in “if” –
If I might see another Spring,
I’d laugh to-day, to-day is brief;
I would not wait for anything:
I’d use to-day that cannot last,
Be glad to-day and sing.

I sat there, stunned. I had just received a sudden, unexpected addition to my life, a boon that I will now return to and carry constantly until I'm through.

You've given me many of these additions, Stephen. It is holy work, and I thank you for it - long may you continue!

Evie said...

Thank you for your posts. I read them all the time. I love the photos of paintings, too,

Stephen Pentz said...

John: As I have noted many times, I am extremely grateful for your presence here over the years, and for your always thoughtful, and thought-provoking, comments. As is often the case, you have once again shared a wonderful poem. I do know Milosz's beautiful poem, but I hadn't thought of it in quite some time, so I appreciate your sharing it. Lovely and moving. To borrow your thoughts, over the years you have provided me with many new discoveries and paths to pursue, as well as reminded me to return to old favorites.

Thank you very much for your kind words about the blog. It has always been a pleasure to have you here.

I hope you will find time to get out and enjoy Spring. (I'm sure you will have some fine days in your allotment.) Take care.

Stephen Pentz said...

gretchenjoanna: Thank you so much for that kind and lovely thought. That's very nice of you to say. As you have heard me say here before, all of the credit goes to the poets and the painters -- I am only the messenger. It is the sharing of their beauty that is gratifying, and I am happy to have had you here over the years to share the beauty together.

Thank you again. Best wishes for a wonderful Spring.

Stephen Pentz said...

Pen: Thank you very much for your kind words, which I deeply appreciate. As I mentioned in my response above to Ann's comment, I send these poems and paintings out in the hope that their beauty may resonate with others as well, and I am blessed and gratified to find that they make their way to readers such as you.

You and I reach each season at opposite times given our respective locations, but a link nonetheless exists. I still remember your comment on my post about the eclipse we experienced here: you told me about your local legend that eclipses are caused when a large crocodile eats the sun. I would never have known of this if we had not crossed paths. And you have shared so much else as well. I know from this blog that the internet can in fact bring people together in a good way (in contrast to what it so often seems to do). The "enhancing [of] life" you write of in your comment definitely goes both ways.

For instance: your lines from Tennyson are lovely, and now I want to head straight back to his poetry, which I haven't visited for some time. As you say, this is what we all do: gather "petals and leaves and feathers and pinecones and butterfly wings" that fall across our path. I hope we will continue to share these gifts.

Thank you again. Take care.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Guirl: Thank you for sharing that passage from Buechner's book: wonderful. I can see why Issa's "simply trust" would bring it to mind: they complement each other perfectly. Buechner is so right. Who can know how or why these things happen? But we should all be grateful to receive any epiphanies that should come our way, and not be modern ironists when it comes to the World's gifts.

Thank you very much for your kind words. It is always a pleasure to hear from you, and I am grateful for your long-time presence here. I hope that all is well with you and your loved ones. Take care.

Stephen Pentz said...

Maggie Emm: That's quite nice of you to say. Thank you very much.

What a lovely line from Wendell Berry! It is new to me, so I tracked down the poem it comes from on the internet. Beautiful. Apt at any time, but of course particularly so the past year. I also love the lines that precede the line you quote: "And I feel above me the day-blind stars/waiting with their light." Thank you for sharing this.

Thank you for being here, and for sharing your thoughts, over the years. Best wishes.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Parker: That poem is beautiful. I can well understand why it left you "stunned." Your description of how things such as this come into our lives, and the part they thereafter play, is perfect -- "a sudden, unexpected addition" that becomes "a permanent part of the architecture of your life." As you say, it is indeed "a thrilling experience." (Christina Rossetti has given me a number of these experiences. The mysterious and puzzling beauty of so many of her poems is amazing. "Another Spring" is wonderful all the way through, but lines such as "Oh stinging comment on my past/That all my past results in 'if'" are in another world altogether (or so at least it seems to me). Thank you for sharing this.)

I'm thankful for your presence here, and for your always thoughtful comments. Thank you very much for your kind words. Take care.

Stephen Pentz said...

Evie: Thank you very much. That's nice of you to say. I'm happy you found your way here, and I hope you will keep returning. Thank you again.

dfleischer said...

I savor what you do. Each and every post. in gratitude and joy, Donna

Danish dog said...

Hi Stephen. Congrats on your 1,000th post. I'd like to draw your attention to a contemporary Scottish poet, Kenneth Steven, who's just been published in the US for the first time (https://www.amazon.com/Iona-Selected-Poems-Paraclete-Poetry/dp/1640606300). I think you'd like his work. Duncan

Stephen Pentz said...

Donna: Thank you so much for your kind words, and for your presence here, which I greatly appreciate. Take care.

Stephen Pentz said...

Duncan: Thank you very much. It's good to hear from you again.

Thank you for the recommendation of Mr. Steven: he is new to me. I went to his website, and his poems do look of great interest. I notice that, in addition to the book you mention, a number of his other volumes are available at Amazon.uk. The few poems I've read thus far on the internet are lovely. On the other side of Scotland from George Mackay Brown, but I sense a similar immersion in, and love for, a distinctive place, history, and culture. I will definitely be reading more. Thank you again.

As always, thank you for being here. I hope that all is well.

Jeff said...

When you began this blog, I was living in a city. I now live in a patch of woods within a larger farming community which has come alive in the past week with snakes and bees and birds, and the poems and artwork you post have only become more meaningful to me. Thanks for providing this vital online oasis.

Tim Guirl said...

Mr Pentz-- I agree with your comment about modern ironists and believe that their lazy cynicism is harmful and contributes to a hollowness of soul regarding the gifts all around us. Eric Hoffer has it that "The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings."

P.S. Regarding a comment you made to me a few months ago: Yes, I have O.K. Bouwsma's little book Conversations with Wittgenstein. Also, Norman Malcolm's slender book about W., whom he knew personally. W's words, " Whereof one does not know, thereof one cannot speak, " which you have quoted here, is one of my favorite quotes, right up there with " This too shall pass"

Stephen Pentz said...

Jeff: It's wonderful to hear from you. I greatly appreciate your kind words, as well as your presence here through the years. Thank you. I hope that all is well in your lovely part of the World. Best wishes to you and your loved ones.

Lee Hanson said...

Congratulations. I love your blog and look forward to it. Not just your thoughts and the poems, but also the art. Keep on.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Guirl: Thank you for your follow-up thoughts. My apologies for the delay in responding. That thought by Hoffer is a fine one. You've reminded me once again that I need to get around to reading him -- every time I come across a passage by him it strikes home. Thank you for sharing it.

I agree about Malcolm's book. In the same vein, I recommend (I suspect you already know of it): The Danger of Words and Writings on Wittgenstein by Maurice O'Connor Drury. Drury and Wittgenstein were quite close, and Drury's memories of him are wonderful and enlightening. Finally, one of the most insightful personal accounts of Wittgenstein is, I think, Letters from Ludwig Wittgenstein, with a Memoir by Paul Engelmann, who knew Wittgenstein in Austria. Although he was not a philosopher or an "academic" (I believe he was an architect), Engelmann's observations on what Wittgenstein was getting at in his philosophy are, in my humble opinion, more valuable than most of what has been written about him by the "experts." (Again, you may already be aware of Engelmann's book.)

As always, thank you for visiting and for sharing your thoughts. Take care.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Hanson: Thank you very much for your kind words. I greatly appreciate your presence here over the years.

I'm glad you mentioned the art: it reminded me of the new book about Richard Eurich that you pointed out to me in one of your comments. I just checked: I see that it was published earlier this year. Thank you! I will track down a copy.

I hope that all is well with you and your loved ones. Best wishes.