A couple of weeks ago I picked up A Householder’s Guide to the Universe, by Harriet Fasenfest. It’s a month-by-month look at householding in the home, the garden, and the kitchen. Heavy emphasis on the garden, which is heavenly when we’re getting warnings about 30 below wind chills. I’ve just gotten to June and am reading about making jam. Will I make jam in 2015? Who knows?
At any rate, Fasenfest quotes Wendell Berry a couple of times, from his book, A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural. I’ve been meaning to read Berry forever, and since I had this one on my to-read shelf, I decided it was time. I’m near the end of the book now, and I believe this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship. And happily, I have picked up many Berry books over the years so I have a nice little stock to choose from.
In the essay, “Notes from an Absence and a Return,” musing on poetry in general and his poetry in particular, Berry says:
I want, and I think in my farming poems I have been consciously working toward, a poetry that would not be incompatible with barns and gardens and fields and woodlands.”
This got me to thinking about my own poetry—particularly the haiku project—and where I might want to go with it in 2015. In asking my Montana friend if she was up to the task of collecting my postcards for another year, I wrote: I want to change the focus. While they will still be daily, I won’t focus so much on trying to capture the essence of my personal day, but something from it that I haven’t quite figured out yet.
And then I read that passage in the Wendell Berry book, and I realized that what I want to capture, or create, is a poetry that is not incompatible with houses and cooking and birds and backyards. A householding kind of poetry. Grounded. Tied to the earth. But an urban earth, since I live in the city.
Enough about me. Earlier in the book, Berry references three great nature poets: Gary Snyder, Denise Levertov, and A. R. Ammons. I have read Snyder and Levertov, but had never read Ammons. Happily, I happened to have The Really Short Poems of A. R. Ammons on my to-read shelf. I loved it! There were many poems that I absolutely adored. Here’s the first one (page 3):
clouds and white rain
in the backyard
untied the drops from
leaves and twigs
with a long singing.
Here is another, slightly more seasonal:
There is now not a single
leaf on the cherry tree:
except when the jay
plummets in, lights, and,
in pure clarity, squalls:
then every branch
breaks out in blue leaves.
And finally, on this last day of the year:
Wishing you and yours all the best in 2015.
Liz Peterson (The B Suite)