Happy National Poetry Month! In honor of NPM, I’m sharing a poem from one of my favorite authors, Edna St. Vincent Millay. I chose it because of its very appropriate title and subject matter.
O mind, beset by music never for a moment quiet, —
The wind at the flue, the wind strumming the shutter;
The soft, antiphonal speech of the doubled brook, never for a moment quiet;
The rush of the rain against the glass, his voice in the eaves-gutter!
Where shall I lay you to sleep, and the robins be quiet?
Lay you to sleep — and the frogs be silent in the marsh?
Crashes the sleet from the bough and the bough sighs upward, never for a moment quiet.
April is upon us, pitiless and young and harsh.
O April, full of blood, full of breath, have pity upon us!
Pale, where the winter like a stone has been lifted away, we emerge like yellow grass.
Be for a moment quiet, buffet us not, have pity upon us,
Till the green come back into the vein, till the giddiness pass.
When I was in the Peace Corps, I took a lot of walks, especially in the summer. My village was pretty tiny, and I often ended up at the rechka (little river). I’d sit on the bank, take the little black notebook out of my back pocket, and jot down some verse. There’s nothing like writing out among nature.
|The view from the bank of the stream|
Since I’ve been in my MFA program, though, I haven’t written much poetry. However, I wanted to include a theme of oral history in my novel, so I’ve been able to incorporate some poems and songs. Most are unfinished “extracts,” but here’s a sample that I wrote after one of my classmates convinced me to try a sonnet.
In fields of gold the chosen heartfriend lies.
The sun burns bright behind his closéd eyes.
An answer to the queen he soon must give
Of how or not together they will live.
But fear can be a mistress strong and cruel
Who lives to make of all men wretched fools.
And so the heartfriend waits for words divine
To clarify the way his path will wind.
The queen looks down upon her chosen one.
“We’ll carve upon our hearts each other’s truth.
As one, not two, we’ll fly into the sun
And in the flames discover what we’re worth.
So take my hand. As two together bloom,
In heav’nly fire our souls will be consumed.
This has been good for me because it’s helped me get back into the rhythm of poetry, but it lets me stretch those writing muscles without being bound to writing a full poem. Because I can fit these into the context of the story, I can get away with just writing snippets—besides the above poem, of course. I hope to get back to writing poetry once I graduate even though I don’t have a stream on whose banks I can bask in the sunlight and ponder, through verse, the meaning of life and whether steppe cats are as big as my fellow volunteers said they were.