Emily Dickinson published only ten poems in her lifetime, and those ten were published anonymously, perhaps, even, without her permission (Emily Dickinson Museum). Whether by her choice (“Publication is the auction of the mind” [788, Fr.]), or chance, or a result of society at the time, most of Dickinson’s poems remained unpublished until after her death. Dickinson did “self-publish” more than 800 poems by writing and laboriously “binding” folded sheets of paper into little books with string (known as fascicles). But the poet kept these fascicles to herself. Of the 1,789 known Dickinson poems, the vast majority remained for the poet’s eyes only. However, Dickinson did “gift” her poems to family and a few select friends. This brings me to the point.
I’ve read how farmers–wise farmers, that is–know to leave fields fallow for a season. These fallow seasons allow the earth to heal, to renew itself; to reclaim a little bit of its wildness, maybe. And so. This blog is going to lay fallow for a season while I evaluate its purpose and place. I will, of course, continue to write. How can I not? Poetry is the language of my soul; writing it is my lifeblood. But for a while, there won’t be any new content on this blog, or on any of the social media outlets.
Back to the point. I would love to continue sharing my poems privately. If you are interested in receiving random gifts of poetry from me, with much irregularity and absolute uncertainty, fill out the contact form (HERE) and I would be happy to share poems with you via email. (I suppose, if you wanted a handwritten poem via snail mail, I could do that too, although my handwriting is abhorrent, so choose that option at your own risk!)
Inspired by my friend Jennifer, I present my 2020 reading list.
2020 was a conscious, determined effort to read only from my shelf (who am I kidding: SHELVES). I confess that I added to said shelves along the way, as I found books that met me in the places I found myself. I also read around in several other poetry collections, but only included completed titles.
We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The Book of Delights, Ross Gay Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners, Naomi Shihab Nye Constance, Jane Kenyon Let Evening Come, Jane Kenyon A Small Porch: Sabbath Poems 2014 and 2015, Wendell Berry The Sea in You: Twenty Poems of Requited and Unrequited Love, David Whyte Sorry for Your Troubles, Pádraig Ó’Tuama Gratitude, Oliver Sacks The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life, Joan D. Chittister Swan: Poems and Prose Poems, Mary Oliver The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay The Bell and the Blackbird, David Whyte Upstream: Selected Essays, Mary Oliver The Boat of Quiet Hours: Poems, Jane Kenyon Anam Cara: a Book of Celtic Wisdom, John O’Donohue A Hundred White Daffodils, Jane Kenyon The Soul’s Slow Ripening, Christine Valters Painter Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy Speaking of Faith: Why Religion Matters—and How We Talk About It, Krista Tippett An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor Eternal Echoes: Celtic Reflections on Our Yearning to Belong, John O’Donohue This Day: Sabbath Poems Collected & New: 1979-2013, Wendell Berry (read, savored slowly over the course of three years) For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway Confessions of a Christian Mystic, River Jordan 99 Psalms, SAID Magdalene: Poems, Marie Howe Imagination in Place, Wendell Berry How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice, Pat Schneider The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall The Persistence of Rivers: an essay on moving water, Alison Townsend
The year has aged, and with it, us, and this, perhaps, more than others. We’ve come now to the end, a year virus burned through the continents like the wildfires in the West, and Justice rose up in outrage, screaming loud to be heard amid the clatter of hatred and injustice; (and how violently I awoke).
And indecency now caged, rattles the bars, grasping, gasping, its dying breaths giving way to dignity, decency restored, and hope rises on the very fingertips of the morning in a steady march toward resurrection.
I do not wish my life away with this forward gaze, for I am firmly grounded here, now; but my vision rises on the wind with the red-tailed hawk, to glimpse what lies beyond.
To be sure, there is winter ahead, and much to be done, and rebirth is no easier than birth; but the thread that weaves through air and history remains, still binds humanity as one; and so, as one, we rise.
You learn, don’t you, by living? How quickly the light changes, from full and warm to slanted and cold in the time it takes to turn your head; how your love, given, turns to hate, burns to ash in the wrong hands, but blooms into an endless meadow of wildflowers, bright and fragrant, in the right hands; how living is steps and missteps, backwards and forwards, forever deepening, ripening.