Category Archives: poetry

The magic of paying attention: Mary Oliver’s "A Thousand Mornings"

{photoshop image, The Octopus Garden}
wrote about my favorite album of the year, Over the Rhine’s Meet Me at the Edge of the World, back in September, which became an anchor for my soul this fall: an album I returned to countless times to be reminded of beauty and truth and the way I wanted to live. I also shared a link to an article I loved about their writing process.  In it, I found we shared a few common inspirations, which led me to check out some of the writers they mentioned, including Mary Oliver.
Oliver’s work is rooted in observing nature and cultivating a sense of place and in a quest to feel more grounded and aware, I took to reading her poetry collection A Thousand Mornings one poem at a time each day with my breakfast throughout October and November.  What I found while reading her work was that I began to look at the world around me in a different way.  Even though I live in a city, my eyes were sharpened and my breath deepened as I watched the rhythms of autumn and early winter around me.  I found myself staring at the patterns of leaf veins, and letting falling snow calm me down.
I came across the image I included above while researching Oliver, and it has become a guide for me in pursuing a watchful spirit and a creative life.  Looking for reasons to be amazed, and living a life filled with wonder–especially when they don’t cost a dime–is a game changer.

More on why I love poetry, and/or: I told my students I’d write a poem.

ELA State Test=done. Winter=over.

It. is. time. to. teach. [and live in] poetry.

I realized that I haven’t written poetry on this blog in a long time.  (It typically comes up a lot, mine or someone else’s.) I think that poetry’s disappearance aligns with winter and state tests and the process of moving or any of the other crazy things that have stolen my time.  If you’ve been reading lately, I’m finally beginning to notice beauty and the small details again, which is perfect for teaching this unit and what drives my own poetic voice: I just want to uncover what we miss way too often, and I love how poetry can capture teeny, fleeting moments that would otherwise disappear. I love how the choice and arrangement of words can so much more than lengthy prose can sometimes.

Roberto Bolano has become one of my favorite authors. He considered himself a poet before a novelist and I love the way he describes what can be attained in the shortest kind of literature: “The novel is an imperfect art. It may be the most imperfect of all literary arts. And the more pages you write, the more possibility there is of revealing imperfections…It isn’t the same to build a house as it is to build a skyscraper…” Bolano knew the precision and control that could go into a poem; but, as with any piece of art, the control only exists until you hand it over to a reader.

Anyway. I’ll probably be writing much more on poetry in the weeks to come. And please, don’t judge too hard: it is almost my bedtime and this one hasn’t been through a proper round of revision…and oh, how I believe in revision (and writing first drafts in near-prose and whittling away).

smashed in the swinging bathroom door,
one could feel my pulse
in the square centimeter of
my middle finger’s nail.

sometimes I wish the rest of the hurt
could feel so pronounced and even
so nearly vomit inducing

after some ice from the school nurse
and just an hour or so
it all went away and i forgot
it ever happened.