Monday, August 24, 2015

O, white flowers


by Julia Hartwig

O, white flowers of shadow, the wild glistening of the river!

- from In Praise of the Unfinished

I'm a huge fan of the one-line poem, and have attempted to write a few of them this past year or so myself. Wouldn't it be a cool idea for an anthology? Though odds are someone else has already compiled one.

I've been going back and forth between the Hartwig volume and My Poems Won't Change the World by Patrizia Cavalli this summer. Both are on the recommended shelf above.

A line from a poem by Hartwig, called "Not to be Certain"

"It is better to be careful, however, judging the happiness
of others."

And from Cavalli:

"We're all going to hell in a while.
But meanwhile
summer's over.
So come on now, to the couch!
The couch! The couch!

Those of us who are on the internet and use social media, probably more than we ought, are constantly shaping a sort of identity, and in the case of those of us who write, a sort of writer-ish identity also. Of course, there's the identity that we think we're shaping, if we think about this type of thing at all, and then there's how others are actually perceiving what we put out there.

I suppose having photographs taken of me and putting together my website and generally thinking about how I want to be as a writer (rather than how I want to be seen), and more importantly, as a human, reminded me of this poem:

Poets Photographed 

by Adam Zagajewski

Poets photographed,
but never when
they truly see,
poets photographed
against a backdrop of books,
but never in darkness,
never in silence,
at night, in uncertainty,
when they hesitate,
when joy, like phosphorus,
clings to matches.
Poets smiling,
well-informed, serene.
Poets photographed
when they're not poets.
If only we knew
what music is.
If only we understood.

- from Unseen Hand, by Adam Zagajewski

I love this poem and come back to it often because it reminds me what it really means to be a poet. It makes me want to write a poem immediately. It reminds me of the joy that no one sees, that you can only get to through odd paths, through a strange and beautiful invisible struggle. And even though I also want to write a novel, it reminds me that I want to write it like a poet, unapologetically.

Well, we're all going to hell in a while. Meanwhile, let's be kind.

Whenever we put something out there that can be read and consumed and critiqued we're taking a small chance. We're being courageous. It's easy to mock those status lines about dinners, the brags about kids, the vacation brags, the photos of cats and dogs, flowers, and even the political rants. But someone is trying to express something about themselves, their life. They're trying to join in.

After a while it can seem that Facebook is apart from life, completely distinct, and we can forget that the "faces" are people. I'm sure I'm guilty of being less than kind on FB at times, too. I want not to be. I've noticed that people I know IRL are disappearing from my newsfeed. If you don't interact, or even just 'like' a person's posts, you disappear from each other based on logarithms. This probably says more about us than we would care to know.

And while I was mulling over all of the above, an article popped up on my Facebook feed: "The Stories We Tell Each Other" by Terri Schanks. 

From the article:

So who are you, and who are you becoming? What stories do you tell yourself about life, death, happiness, what you can allow yourself, the kind of work you can do, how much money you can make, the opportunities available to you. What are the stories you tell yourself about your life? Thoreau pondered this at length and said:

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you think it is. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house.”

How often are things as they seem?

Well, it's unlikely that Adam Zagajewski is on Facebook. But I suppose it's interesting to think of all the types of friendships there are there that might not have existed before. The idea that we might meet people on the internet and think of them as friends seemed creepy not so long ago. These days, I can say that I have un-met friends with whom I have much in common and admire and respect and am inspired by, and whom I met via the internet. What a lovely gift this has been. There are friendships both impossible, and not.

Impossible Friendships

by Adam Zagajewski, translated by Clare Cavanagh

For example, with someone who no longer is,
who exists only in yellowed letters.

Or long walks beside a stream,
whose depths hold hidden

porcelain cups—and the talks about philosophy
with a timid student or the postman.

A passerby with proud eyes
whom you'll never know.

Friendship with this world, ever more perfect
(if not for the salty smell of blood).

The old man sipping coffee
in St.-Lazare, who reminds you of someone.

Faces flashing by
in local trains—

the happy faces of travelers headed perhaps
for a splendid ball, or a beheading.

And friendship with yourself
—since after all you don't know who you are.


Late August, nearly the end of summer. There are likely many poems about this time of year, and I'm sure I dogeared a few earlier in the season, but I can't find them now. Poems about the way summer breaks you down. Poems saying, it was enough and it was not enough. I want more. I can't take any more. Poems about the slow opening of sunflowers, and then the way they droop and how heavy they become, how gloriously sad and frayed they are at the end.

Now is the time to gather and bring in flowers, now is the time to love your life as poor as it is. To search for radiance. To tell yourself stories about how utterly gorgeous your life is, no matter how difficult. 

I think I really should end every post with this line: I have no idea what I'm doing here. 

But I'll end with some more photos I've taken for my website (still haven't figured out what I'm doing there, either, though thoughts are beginning to form). 

And with a few shares:

watching (I resisted this one for a while, but as they say, resistance is futile).

finished watching Silk (Which was terrific and brilliant for the first two series. Still mad about the way it ended in S.3). 

Wishing you all a calm week ahead.

- Shawna


  1. Such beauty. Flowers and beautiful words, the perfect way to start a week.

  2. O goodness here! These words resonate and inspire (maybe future words of my own?). Thanks so much for the sharing bits too - loved Silk but haven't tried Poldark (yet). xo

    1. I look forward to your future words! Have missed your blog posts of late, but summer is like that. Wasn't Silk good?

  3. Thought provoking in so many ways. Thinking now that my "FB Only" friends will probably never really know me because there's so many things I choose not to post. I'm not so brave in that respect, I guess. I wonder why people choose to befriend me? Anyway...I'm glad you did :) I will ponder this post all week.
    You images are like a big end of summer celebration! Love this: "Now is the time to gather and bring in flowers, now is the time to love your life as poor as it is. To search for radiance. To tell yourself stories about how utterly gorgeous your life is, no matter how difficult." xo

    1. So true - about FB friends. I used to have this rule about posting 'one real thing' every week. But sometimes I find it really hard to share. Shouldn't it be getting easier? lol.

      Thanks of your lovely words. xo

  4. I really like the idea of a book of one-line poems.
    And your sunflower shots. Such ache and fray in the beauty.

    1. I should really look into whether it's been done before!

  5. Thank you for the reminder to find joy and peace in my day, no matter how poor I may think my life is at the moment. Your blog always brings me peace and beauty. ..and food for thought.


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