Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.


Was not familiar with the poet Jane Kenyon until stumbling across one of her poems hanging on the wall in a dingy Portsmouth parking garage late one night last week. I stood there and read the piece that countless people have probably walked right by on their way to the Gap (love me some public art!) and listened to the acoustic guitarist next door and felt like there was hope for literature being relevant after all when it appears, magically, on a wall, dirty, when you're not looking for it.

Apparently Kenyon was New Hampshire's poet laureate at the time of her death from leukemia in the mid-90s. I dove into a few of her books later at one of the bookstores on Congress Street, and found therein a spare plainsong kind of style that mixes New England austerity with the sense of honest melancholy that I most value in writers and poets.

The poem below is the one from the parking garage. It reminded me of much of the yogic and Buddhist philosophy I've read, and some of the process theology, too, in the way it conjures up multiplicitous being and some fluid transcending of boundaries; perpetual flux, tantric oneness ("I am you and you are me and we are the universe"), Taoist notions of inherent natural harmony, blah blah blah. You can read this as the voice of a person or as the voice of some kind of divinity or as a whole lot of empty space; I like that deliberate ambiguity.

~

Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks

I am the blossom pressed in a book,
found again after two hundred years. . . .

I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper. . . .

When the young girl who starves
sits down to a table
she will sit beside me. . . .

I am food on the prisoner's plate. . . .

I am water rushing to the wellhead,
filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .

I am the patient gardener
of the dry and weedy garden. . . .

I am the stone step,
the latch, and the working hinge. . . .

I am the heart contracted by joy. . .
the longest hair, white
before the rest. . . .

I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow. . . .

I am the musk rose opening
unattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .

I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name. . . .

~

Check out the rest of Kenyon's work at poets.org. She's worth knowing.

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