Friday, June 06, 2014

Poetry Friday: Slowing Down

On Monday I finished up in my classroom, and I have spent the days since shifting into the rhythms of the summer.  We will be traveling, but for the moment I have been straightening up my house, exercising, hanging out with my kids, and reading.  During the school year, I feel as though I am stealing time to read, but in the summer I can relax a little, start in on the stack that has been accumulating by my bed. 

Today, as I was riding the exercise bike, I was listening to the Poem of the Day podcast (you can find it on iTunes).  I'm catching up on April's podcasts still, and on April 5th, Australian poet Mark Tredinnick is featured reading his poem "Eclogues."  This is a poem for the summer me: it's long, discursive, about work and family and landscape.  You can read the poem, and hear him read it, here.  The recording lasts just over eight minutes.

My dictionary defines eclogue as "a short poem, especially a pastoral dialogue."  It appears as though Tredinnick has written many eclogues.  I confess I had never heard of him before this morning, but I will be delving more into his work.

This poem describes Tredinnick's journeys back and forth from his house to the shed where he writes.  He illustrates for us his routine, the focus on work, the return to his family, and gradually, he talks about the country around him, and mortality (a friend who died, a friend who has cancer), and then he ends with a beautiful metaphor of landscape as poetry. 

It's hard to excerpt a poem like this, because the point is the whole, but here are some bits I liked:


Its balm inside and search again briefly for the frequency of family life
and I find it in the bath, my girl
                                               and our three children, sleek as seals,
and in that moment a truck passes on the road
and snaps the powerline from the eaves. The house shudders and we fall
back in time to candles and stories by heart and reading news from memory.


You’d call it a blessing if you hadn’t been woken four times
by minor deities, pyjamaed like children
                                                                             and frantic in the dark with oracles.
Why do our children not know how to sleep?
Do they fear we’ve left our waking late? At first light they dawn
and have you rise and lead them out into the story


The river has told the grass again, a parable the day has forgotten by nine.
And by ten, at your desk, you’ve forgotten it, too.
                                                                              A man so easily distracted
by himself. But what are you here for
and what do they love, if not the way you leave each day to change the world’s mind
and return with the night, your fire spent, your face lined with secrets?



But, listen: no one reads poems to learn how to vote. Verse can’t change
the future’s mind. You write it like rain;
                                                                              you enter it like nightfall.
It isn’t for anything; a poem is country,
and it needs you to keep walking it, and I walk out into it now, carrying my friend
and smelling the paddocky wind and feeling the rain cold on my face.

I'm so thankful for these summer days to slow down, read, think complete thoughts,  and maybe, eventually, if I can slow down enough, write something "like rain."

Carol is hosting the roundup here today.


Julie said...

Wow, Ruth, I am so grateful to you for calling my attention to this poem and poet. I expect to be looking him up and seeing if I can find a collection. This is a remarkable poem, and you are so right - it takes time, it takes slowing down, to appreciate it. And isn't it beautifully read? Again, thanks!

Tara said...

I am lost in these lines, Ruth:
You write it like rain, you enter it like nightfall.
It isn’t for anything; a poem is country,
and it needs you to keep walking it...

How wonderful to be in the swing of summer. It's all crazy last days for us (9 to go) yet, but I am feeling the summer pull!

Violet N. said...

This is beautiful writing! It casts and spell--makes one want to grab a pencil and go to the shed oneself. Thanks for drawing our attention to this poet.

Enjoy your summer break!!

Liz Steinglass said...

Wow. These are so lovely, so real and everyday and so transcendent at the same time. I will try listening the next time I"m on my exercise bike. I know what you mean about reading feeling like stolen time in the school year but not in the summer. Enjoy your summer and all your travels.

Mary Lee said...

This is just to say that I have been here and read your words, but surgery on both thumbs last Tuesday prevents me from typing a personalized comment. Forgive me -- copy/paste is the best I can do this week! :-)

Carol said...

We finished school yesterday, Ruth, which is why I'm so late wrapping up Poetry Friday. I had never heard of the term "edlogues" or Mark's work either, but I love the lines you've excerpted, and will be returning to listen to him read after I finish the roundup. Happy Summer!

GatheringBooks said...

It's the first I'm hearing of Mark Tredinnick and this type of poetry. How unique and refreshing. So glad to see as well that you're feeling way better and that you have said goodbye to your illness from a few weeks back. :)