Again this week I'm sharing a poem I got in one of the two daily poem emails I'm receiving for National Poetry Month. (You can find information on signing up for these in this post.) Tuesday's poem from Knopf was called "Happiness Writes White." The poet, Edward Hirsch, explained, “The French novelist Henry de Montherlant coined the maxim, ‘Happiness writes white,’ which suggests that happiness is a blank that can’t be described. It simply doesn’t show up on the page." This thought reminded me of Tolstoy's famous line: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Tolstoy finds unhappiness more individualized and therefore more interesting; Hirsch wanted to show that happiness can be written about.
Happiness Writes White
I am a piece of chalk
scrawling words on an empty blackboard.
I am a banner of smoke
that crosses the blue air and doesn’t dissolve.
I don’t believe that only sorrow
and misery can be written.
You can see the rest of the poem here.
I thought a lot about this idea of happiness being hard to write about. Is it boring? Is it banal? Do I write more when I am miserable? My level of blogging lately would suggest that I do, since as life becomes more normal, I write less. I am writing a lot off-blog, though: more than I have in years. I think I tend to produce more when I am emotional, whether the emotions are positive or negative. I do sometimes choose topics that make me happy, and recently I did the following poem about a gift from a student.
My student brought me
a plastic grocery bag of mangoes
from the tree in his yard.
They were green and smooth
He told me not to keep them in the bag
because they don't like to be hot.
I took them home
and put them in a wooden bowl
and watched them disappear
as we cut them up into orange chunks
and ate them for breakfast.
Teachers everywhere plan and grade
and hold their audience
with not much more than their voices
and get the occasional mealy apple
deposited on their desks.
I get a bowl full of the tropics,
delicate (keep them cool),
beautiful (look at them nestled there,
and see if you can help touching them),
Life sure isn't fair sometimes.
Ruth, from thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com
Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.
4 hours ago