The Very First Poem-a-Day Friday

Remember how I made a New Year’s Resolution that I would be reading, really reading and thinking about, one poem a day for the year of 2012?

I love poetry, I write poetry, I studied poetry, but it’s amazing how difficult it can be to make poetry a priority in my reading life. I have a pile of books that I’ve been meaning to get to for years and my commitment to one poem a day is how I’m going to get to it.

Here’s where you come in. I know my posts about poetry are never the most popular. And, actually, if I’m honest, I’d say my idea of us memorizing poems together has kind of crashed and burned. It was mostly my fault. At the beginning, I was doing my best to get a new poem up every month. Then every two. And now, how long has Dickinson’s poem been in the sidebar? Forever–. That’s how long. I know you’re not reading this blog in hopes that you and I will discuss how much we loved memorizing Dickinson. But I do care a lot about poetry and I care about offering people a chance to experience what I think is great poetry.

I’ve been rereading Mary Karr’s amazing memoir Lit. (Which you should buy right now if you haven’t ever read it. It’s the very best. The very best.) Anyway, she includes a quote by Wallace Stevens from a letter, in which he says: “People should like poetry the way a child likes snow, and they would if poets wrote it.” Translation? If you don’t like poetry, maybe the world has failed you and never shown you how good it can be. Or, maybe all the poets have failed you. I’d like to think that it’s a little of both. And if you don’t mind, every Friday for a while, I’d like to show you my favorite poem from the seven I read that week, in hopes that one might help you like poetry “the way a child likes snow.”

Since the new year began, I’ve been reading from Robert Hass’ book Time and Materials every night before bed. I also took a break from Hass one day to read one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems, “After great pain” which made me sigh, as per usual. And yesterday, instead of Hass, I read Mary Karr’s new poem in N+1 Magazine: “Elegy for Christopher Hitchens, Whom I Only Met Twice“.

But for our first ever “Poem-a-Day Friday,” I’m going to post a poem from Robert Hass, my favorite from his book so far. I’m not planning to give any sort of explanation for the poem each Friday. I’ll just post it and we can discuss it in the comments if you want to.

So, here’s a poem I like. If you don’t agree, tell me why. Or don’t tell me, and that’s okay too. (And, by the way, I’m taking down the “Memorize with me?” section of the sidebar. It’s time.)

A Swarm of Dawns,
A Flock of Restless Noons

by Robert Hass

There’s a lot to be written in the Book of Errors.
The elderly redactor is blind, for all practical purposes.

He has no imagination, and field mice have gnawed away
His source text for their nesting. I loved you first, I think,

When you stood in the kitchen sunlight and the lazy motes
Of summer dust while I sliced a nectarine for Moroccan salad

And the seven league of boots of your private grief. Maybe
The syntax is a little haywire there. Left to itself,

Wire must act like Paul Klee with a pencil. Hay
Is the Old English word for strike. You strike down

Grass, I guess, when it is moan. Mown. The field mice
Devastated the monastery garden. Maybe because it was summer

And the dusks were full of marsh hawks and the nights were soft
With owls, they couldn’t leave the herbs alone: gnawing the roots

Of rosemary, nibbling at sage and oregano and lemon thyme.
It’s too bad eglantine isn’t an herb, because it’s a word

I’d like to use here. Her coloring was a hybrid
Of rubbed amber and the little flare of dawn rose in the kernel

Of an almond. It’s a wonder to me that I have fingertips.
The knife was very sharp. The scented rose-orange moons,

Quarter moons, of fruit fell to the cutting board
So neatly it was as if two people lived in separate cities

And walked to their respective bakeries in the rain. Her bakery
Smelled better than his. The sour cloud of yeast from sourdough

Hung in the air like the odor of creation. They both bought
Sliced loaves, they both walked home, they both tripped

In the entry to their separate kitchens, and the spilled slices
Made the exact same pattern on the floor. The nectarines

Smelled like the Book of Luck. There was a little fog
Off the bay at sundown in which the waning moon swam laps.

The Miwoks called it Moon of the Only Credit Card.
I would have given my fingertips to touch your cheekbone,

And I did. That night the old monk knocked off early. He was making it
All up anyway, and he’d had a bit of raisin wine at vespers.

(From Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005, Harper Collins, 2007)


Filed under Poetry

18 responses to “The Very First Poem-a-Day Friday

  1. Favorite line:
    Her coloring was a hybrid
    Of rubbed amber and the little flare of dawn rose in the kernel
    Of an almond.

    I absolutely adore it when a poet magically captures a moment, a glance, or an idea that is simultaneously spot on and transformative.
    Love the idea of sharing poetry together.
    It’s like the poetry class I never got to take.

  2. I love poetry Friday. Thanks for giving us this end-of-the-week gift.

  3. Holly and Addie, I’m so glad you are excited about it! (I just imagined all my readers rolling their eyes and saying “Great, she’s writing about poetry again.” Thanks for the encouragement!)

    My favorite line?

    “You strike down / Grass, I guess, when it is moan. Mown.” Love that he describes grass as moan as if it’s lamenting or an actual lament itself. Love the word play in this poem in general…

  4. Hi Micha,
    I love this and am eager to see what you post. This is lovely. I am newly interested in poetry, thanks in part to you and Emily (forever is composed of nows!) but also to Billy Collins and a recent pulizter winner I heard interviewed on Forum. I also just read Lit and loved it. My sister in law Nancy had told me about it. I had read marys other memoirs but not this. I loved it. Anyway, thanks for this. I love it.

  5. Amy

    Last lines of Mary Karr’s new poem caught my throat:
    “you now
    know what they knew
    and I know naught but loss
    and its multiples the only
    other certainty being mystery.”
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. I’ll be looking forward to Fridays! I’m newly interested to. I kinda blame that on you, friend! 🙂 I just read David Whyte’s, “Everything is Waiting For You” and loved it. Have you read it?

  7. Haley

    Love it, love poetry Fridays, loved reading this poem. I want to try to start writing some scrap of a poem every day… I haven’t started yet, but I’ve started wanting to and that’s something.

  8. Thank you for sharing Micha. I don’t “know” anything about poetry, but I do know what I feel something is beautiful, and this was. I’ll be looking forward to this as well.

  9. Stacy

    Dear Micha,

    I love poetry, so please keep it featuring it.

    I’m re-reading this one, trying to track with it. The images are lovely, but I’m struggling with the leap in line 4– suddenly the writer says, “I loved you first, I think.” Who is the you? Where is this poem taking us? Someone chime in, please.

  10. I agree, and I’ll tell you why: because it made me laugh. Several times.

    Stacy, I don’t know, but I think he is talking to the woman he loves and maybe hasn’t lost, but doesn’t have. But hopes to, even though there’s something (her old “private grief”?) separating them.

  11. mkk

    I’m reading Mary Karr’s Lit right now. Hard to put down. I read her Liar’s Club last year and needed time – just so heartbreaking and raw and beautiful and hard…

    Love this poem idea. I talked about wanting to read more poems too like you wrote on your resolutions post. I’m reading from Poetry 180. Maybe will post from there weekly, too.

    Thanks for this.

  12. Amy

    Can I recommend to you these four poems in Arthouse America, written by my friend Beth? I think they are amazing.

  13. I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry mainly because I don’t really know poetry…but this was beautiful! Looking forward to more Friday poems!
    Thank you!

  14. This is a beautiful poem. One I’d want to go back and read many times and let its meaning sink in a little.
    I’m glad you’re starting poetry Fridays. I studied English lit at university and loved it so much but haven’t read much poetry since then really. It’s time to dig out the old poetry books again…

  15. Hi Micha,
    I love that you’re sharing poetry, too. I love your writing and your ‘take’ on things, in general. I’ve been wanting to introduce myself—I went to high school with Chris, and was blown away to discover your blog and figure out that you’re Micha Hohorst! What a small world. It’s wonderful to find somebody else who values poetry, in spite of its (earned) bad rep—I hope we can meet some day in real life. Thanks for the hard and happy work you do of writing, and thanks for sharing it with us random readers!
    —Sarah (Dunning) Park

    • Such a small world, Sarah! You don’t have to introduce yourself, I remember meeting you at some point in the past six years or so. 🙂 Chris was thrilled to see your comment on the blog today and I’m honored you discovered it. Yay for another poet! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts around here!

      • Thanks for the warm welcome, Micha! I’m happy we’ve connected. And hi to Chris! I’m abominably out of touch with everyone from high school, probably because I’ve shied away from the solitude- and time-sucking jaws of facebook… only to wholeheartedly throw myself into twitter. 🙂 I may email you soon with questions about your thoughts on the whole “poetry world”…

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