Saturday, August 04, 2007

Suffering as subject

I was growing impatient with myself for writing so many poems lately about happiness, gratitude, having come to terms; when my sense of this life is that suffering is the ground-note, physical and emotional, the suffering of the body and of the spirit; that pain is what binds us as physical and spiritual beings; that life is hard, full of joy for sure but hard; that we are born of pain and that in all human likelihood we will pass through pain as we die.

And so it was with a certain relief that I began to read Dan Bellm's marvelous collection One Hand on the Wheel, about the poet's experience of his father's death following a lifelong difficult relationship, the tremendous pain of being so intimately connected with someone who does not approve of you, the physical reality of death, the way pain mingles with relief. Reading these poems knocked a lot of words loose inside me and I drafted two new poems today, poems I am curious to find out where they go. So thanks to whoever (I can't remember who it was) recommended this poet on their blog a while back. (Interlibrary loan is a wonderful thing!)

I have also just started reading Lucia Perillo's new book of personal essays, I've Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness and Nature, which takes a head-on, unsentimental look at the suffering of the body and its intertwining with the mind. Good stuff. The book itself (from Trinity University Press) is physically very nice, with a good sturdy binding and paper that feels good between the fingers. I've only read a little bit of this book so far, over lunch at the Village Deli today, but it probably contributed to knocking loose those words.

I think it is fine, by the way, to write poems about happiness and joy, though I think it's best if those poems are aware, in the back of their little poem minds, of the fact of suffering. I think it can even be a political act to write poems about happiness, to dare to be happy & express that. Some days, it is just plain good to be alive, and I like it when a poem can remind me of that. I just don't think poems should take happiness for granted, is all. Nor should people.

Yeah, that's all starting to sound a bit like a manifesto, so I'll cut it off there. Be well, all.


Peter said...

Thanks for this Anne.
I ordered the Bellm book today.

Anne said...

Peter: I think you'll be glad you did. It's a remarkable book!

Eduardo C. Corral said...


Dan is a very nice man. He was here at Yaddo with me for a bit. I'm going to email him your posts. He'd appreciate the kind words.

Anne said...

Eduardo! That is so cool. It always makes me happy to find out that a writer or musician I admire turns out to be a nice person. He apparently has at least one other book out, which I'm going to have to get hold of now, because this one blew me away.