RX for an Attitude of Lassitude: Poetry
Poetry is more necessary than ever as a fire to light our tongues.
-Naomi Shihab Nye,
from Salting the Ocean
Don’t know about you, but since November I’ve been surfing salty, stinging waves of weariness and mostly wiping out. Sometimes, while reading a short story or novel or memoir I’ll keep going over and over the same paragraph without understanding a single word because, blinded by politically-induced brainfog, I’ve crashed against distracting rocks of uncertainty. Has this happened to you, dear reader/writer/poet, as well?
When his ship first came to Australia
Cook wrote, the natives
continued fishing, without looking up.
Unable, it seems, to fear what was too large to be comprehended.
The good news is that poetry seems to help. A lot. Rosa Inocencio Smith wrote recently in The Atlantic, “There is something comforting in reading a poem and seeing your fears, irrationalities, questionable choices, anxieties, reflected—seeing a poet articulate what you thought was inexpressible, and in that invaluable moment feeling a little less alone.”
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
from “The Laughing Heart”
Whether reading or writing, poetry can be a portal out of our cave of confusion and into the brighter light of a fresh outlook. An engaging poem may re-energize us or even change us in astonishing ways for life. Through the practices of reading and writing poetry we may come to know our authentic voice and those of other poets. Poeming relieves life’s daily turbulences, comforts and inspires us and, in turn, we can do that for others. Poetry may also support political change and, as Mark Heywood has written in “2017, First Thoughts: Towards a Government of Poets,” poetry may even be “… a badly neglected branch of politics.”
As we reflect & pray & and meditate on their brutal deaths
Let us celebrate those who marched at night and spoke of peace
& chanted Black Lives Matter
-Juan Felipe Herrera
William Stafford wrote, “Everyone is born a poet – a person discovering the way words sound and work, caring and delighting in words. I just kept on doing what everyone starts out doing. The real question is: Why did other people stop?”
The border is a line that birds cannot see.
from “The Border: A Double Sonnet”
In our town many folks didn’t stop. We are a large-for-a-small-town, active community of poets, and growing. National and world chaos is clearly a catalyst for birthing poets and poems. Here, poets gather to send their powerful words out into the world at open mics: Laurel Leigh’s at Village Books, Chuckanut Sandstone at the Colophon Café, Creekside out in Sudden Valley, Poetrynight at the Central Library, to name a few.
Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Not at all
Not at all.
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.
from “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me”
We’re so fortunate to have special events, like Luther Allen and Judy Kleinberg’s SpeakEasy for which local poets most recently performed “Poems of Darkness, Poems of Light,” reflecting both the challenges and enlightening moments of these troubled times. And World Peace Poets, who sponsored a month of sending out Peace Poetry Postcards this February, published Peace Poems, Volume Two in April, and provide Peace Poetry and other workshops throughout the year.
To float like a cloud
you have to go to the trouble
of becoming one.
– Robert Genn
from “The Twice-Weekly Letters”
As if that isn’t enough, twice each year Clover: A Literary Rag is published by Independent Writers Studio, featuring work by both local and international poets. And if you’re a competitive type, try your pen at Sue C. Boynton’s Poetry Contest each March, and the Whatcom Writes contest in the fall. Or, shoot for displaying your poem in the new Poem Booth downtown. All of these activities celebrate the importance of poetry in our destabilized lives, but there is one more that never fails to engage the four chambers of my raging heart.
What can I do?
I have to take care of it.
The famished spirit eats fire, poetry, and rain; it only wants love.
Every year, I can’t wait until April when National Poetry Writing Month, NaPoWriMo, comes around. Several of us in Red Wheelbarrow Writers have participated over the years and find it challenging, but also delightful and rewarding. We write a poem each day for the thirty days of the the month, and by the end of the month we not only have a sweet collection of poems, but the lobus poeticus in our brains is fairly glowing. Something about daily writing frees poets, encourages us to experiment and open up to possibilities we didn’t know existed. It brings a sense of hope for change as we release our voices out into the world. We feel heard. And in being heard, I believe we come to see poetry as an archipeligo of small islands on which we can rest. And so can you, dear reader/writer/poet, in this churning sea of craziness, without drowning.
Friday afternoon and I’m wheelin’ the Subaru past
the corner of Cornwall and Magnolia, honkin’ at a guy
holdin’ a Black Lives Matter sign, showin’ support,
thinkin’ I oughta be out there, too, with my rainbow
striped Peace Be With You poster, when I notice
a clutch of crows hangin’ out on a leafless maple.
Crows don’t know nothin’ ‘bout politics.
from “Crow Bop” NaPoWriMo, 2017
Susan Chase-Foster writes poetry and prose fueled by sweltering Mexican beaches, terrifying Taiwanese typhoons, Alaskan mosquitoes the size of condors, and rampant planetary distress. She is a two-time Walk Winner of the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest and is delighted that her work has appeared in Clover: a Literary Rag, Cirque, Peace Poems, Noisy Water, Whatcom Writes anthologies, and Red Wheelbarrow Writers’own Memory into Memoir. Currently, Susan is working with her son on a collection of poems and photographs from Taiwan, and is in temporary remission from blogitis at https://stilllifewithtortillas.com/.