Friday, November 28, 2014

in the realm of the poetic

When Giving Is All We Have

by Alberto Ríos

                                One river gives
                                Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.


"We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—"

Giving can be simple, and it can also be quite complicated. I like how in the poem by Rios, he acknowledges the many faces of giving.

The second line, I find quite heartbreaking. We give because nobody gave to us. But this is also inspiring. We can be better than we have been treated. There are possibilities.

Of course, what we have to give is not always received in the ways in which we hope, or plan.

We give of ourselves in many different ways. For those of you who are creative - writers or artists or photographers, you give when you share your art.

In need of a bit of inspiration, I return to Doris Lessing. November and December can be very difficult for those who create. The time we usually manage to carve out for ourselves can escape us now. It's even more exhausting, and at times seems impossible. Well.

“Whatever you're meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”

- Doris Lessing

“You should write, first of all, to please yourself. You shouldn't care a damn about anybody else at all. But writing can't be a way of life - the important part of writing is living. You have to live in such a way that your writing emerges from it.”

- Doris Lessing

I'm trying to live in such a way that part of my everyday existence connects with the poetry that hides in plain view. I'm not saying I always succeed, but it's a practice, like any practice.

You can find poetry in your everyday life, your memory, in what people say on the bus, in the news, or just what's in your heart. 

- Carol Ann Duffy

I was just having this conversation with some people recently. I think that we're all potentially writing poetry every day. We're condensing language as we tweet, construct our Facebook status lines, as we text our loved ones before we hop in the car to drive home for dinner.

The poem is a form of texting... it's the original text. It's a perfecting of a feeling in language - it's a way of saying more with less, just as texting is. 

- Carol Ann Duffy

You're in the realm of the poetic when you notice something anew, something you see every single day. When you notice something beautiful, or something not so beautiful. Something unjust. Something incongruous. Something weird or cool or lovely or something that makes you want to laugh or weep or scream. Your heart twinges. You feel hope. You're angry, so angry you could spit. When you develop an understanding. When you overhear words on the bus or in a cafe. Potentially, you're in the realm of the poetic. Write things down. Text yourself.

You're in the realm of the poetic.

At your desk, as you look out at your co-workers, wondering what they're going through. Sitting down to lunch, to dinner at your kitchen table. As you walk through the deep snow (which we'll be doing here in Edmonton today....). As you line up for a coffee at the cafe down the street. As you watch a magpie flit across the cityscape. As you flip through a magazine or eat an orange.

One last poem, one of my favourite poems.

Poet's work

by Lorine Niedecker

   advised me:
           Learn a trade

I learned
     to sit at desk
           and condense

No layoff
      from this



  1. Words and pictures that touch my mind, my heart and my soul. Thank you!

  2. Perfect! As it happens, I'm about to pick up some Carol Ann Duffy this very evening.

  3. Ahhhh .... Shawna, what a beautiful post! I so love visiting you. Your photos and words are so inspiring. Since I'm a newcomer to poetry (reading only!), your space makes me fall in love with the written form even more. I especially love the poem by Alberto Rios - I'm a big giver, it's what makes me tick. I do it cuz I love to and that's all, no rewards expected. I particularly love giving to the elderly and I'll be starting a certificate in gerontologie at Université Laval coming January - very excited! Anyway, all that to say, thank you for your continuous inspiration. Happy Sunday! XX

  4. Thanks everyone :) So glad this post hit the spot.

    Lynn - wow! What a cool career path.

  5. Thank you for sharing this Doris Lessing (in particular, always grateful for all of it) - essential reminder!


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