Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Whose voice is heard? #NPM17 #phenology

Most of our local oak trees finally have a softened silhouette. Buds have burst and leaves are developing. Winter-bare branches are trying on their Spring outfits. More and more male goldfinches are showing up at the feeders in full, breeding, bright yellow plumage. As I write, the temperature is 65℉. I'm going to pretend that I can't see the snow in the forecast for next Monday. It's Spring. It's April! It's Minnesota, sigh!

goldfinch males coming into season
goldfinch males coming into season
Photo by J. Harrington

Now, before you follow the link at the end of this paragraph, consider that, as much as Mark Doty's talk contains many truths, it is not the whole truth, according to some of us. Also, when reading through Tide of Voices, I became curious about the omitted poems Doty read, so I've provide links to those poems down below. So, after that, to help celebrate National Poetry Month, on this twenty-fifth day of April, please take some time and follow suggestion number 25 from the Academy of American Poets to: Read or listen to Mark Doty’s talk “Tide of Voices: Why Poetry Matters Now.”

From the title of Doty's talk, one might wonder if there are times when poetry doesn't matter. After posting to this blog daily for almost four and a half years, and including with each post a poem relevant to the daily topic, I hope it's clear that one of us believes that poetry always matters. Some of the comments over those years give me hope that more than one of us finds that poetry matters. Of course, we also realize that all any of us every have is Now, so perhaps I'm splitting hairs as well as infinitives. Anyhow, Doty frames his talk in the context that Poetry’s work is to make people real to us through the agency of the voice. "‘Poetry is the human voice,' I tell them, ‘and we are of interest to one another. Are we not?'"

I respectfully suggest there is much more to poetry and the interests of humans than each other. Have you ever heard the poems whispered by the leaves as they are tickled by a Summer breeze? Is not a Spring morning's bird song a poem of joy to be heard and heeded? When a country brook takes the time to burble to you, does that poem fall on deaf ears? Just as Maslow's hierarchy of needs, to which Doty refers, can applies to humans and the entire earth community (think about Thomas Berry's Pax Gaia and Shakespeare's
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
And yet, given the difficulties Doty notes regarding our listening to other humans, how much more of a challenge it is to listen to the animal people, plant people, the "other" people with whom we share the earth. Poetry helps us not only to find our own voice, but to hear and come to understand the voices of the others.

Now, off the soapbox and here are the promised links to the poems mentioned in Doty's talk:

[Reads “A Brief for the Defense”]
[Reads “Seventh Avenue”]
[Reads “Revenge”]

Finally, as a fascinating coincidence, that, I believe, fits wonderfully with voices and learning to listen, the guardian today has published insightful writing about why we need to listen to individuals and not judge people as categories, try reading There’s no such thing as a blue or red state. Let’s talk about real life instead.


Carl Sandburg, 1878 - 1967

Out of your many faces
Flash memories to me
Now at the day end
Away from the sidewalks
Where your shoe soles traveled
And your voices rose and blent
To form the city’s afternoon roar
Hindering an old silence.

I remember lean ones among you,
Throats in the clutch of a hope,
Lips written over with strivings,
Mouths that kiss only for love,
Records of great wishes slept with,
      Held long
And prayed and toiled for:

Written on
Your mouths
And your throats
I read them
When you passed by.