Tuesday, March 27, 2012

POETRY: Read More, Blog More #3

I've been thinking a lot about Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's own." Yes, I realize that Virginia and her writing have nothing to do with poetry, but making a space 'your own' decidedly does.

My own "room" is about the size of a postage stamp. It is a functioning office for household management, a small business, and my career as a tutor, which makes me an independent contractor with its attendant paperwork. It also acts as nexus for my writing, and of course, this vital and terribly significant Blog, (averaging 150 hits a day!).
It may seem that squeezing that massive amount of function into such a tiny room would leave little space for comfort and warmth.

But Au contraire, mon ami. (That's French for nu uh)

When you're a bibliophile, my friends, decorating is not really that difficult. Book cases - bulging, surprise laden book cases - make any room.

"Still," I hear you saying, "Not. poetry."

We'll get there. I promise. But 'till then, stay close folks. Oh, and make a left here.

The anthologies on my shelves pay tribute to my days at university. (English teacher, here) They include the usual basic literary cannon fodder (see what I did there!?) but because of a wonderfully progressive and diverse faculty, my collection goes way beyond the basic OWM (old white men).

The jewel like seeds from my anthologies have, with the help of online used book "stores," germinated into fruit that spills abundantly from myriad countries, cultures, and times into all the rooms of my tiny home.

I've obviously found a way to survive the drought caused by the closing of our town's last book store.

OK. Here's the path again to your right.

My love of poetry has helped my collection to quietly overtake my office. One by one, authors slip out of tight fitting and restrictive anthologies to make themselves comfortable on the poetry book shelves. Greeting earlier arrivals and fitting in easily, they stake out their new territory.

And when I sit back in my reading chair in this sunny little room, I find myself surrounded by friends. Their easily accessible words comfort, admonish, amuse, and educate. They also help to make this space truly my own, a space to retreat, rewind, refill, and renew.

A room of my own.

My favorite wall decor? Book cases, overflowing and interspersed with treasured keepsakes gathered through the years.

Is there a poem that celebrates this love of books? Don't be silly. There's a poem for just about any occasion you could want.

Once again, Miss Emily Dickinson obliges us with a verse that captures the thought.

There is no frigate like a book
    - Emily Dickinson

There is no Frigate like a Book  
To take us Lands away,  
Nor any Coursers like a Page  
Of prancing Poetry –   
This Traverse may the poorest take         
Without oppress of Toll –   
How frugal is the Chariot  
That bears a Human soul.

A little library, growing larger every year, is an honorable part of a man's history. It is a man's duty to have books. A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessaries of life.
 - Henry Ward Beecher


  1. Oatmeal

    I eat oatmeal for breakfast.

    I make it on the hotplate and put skimmed milk on it.

    I eat it alone.

    I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone.

    Its consistency is such that it is better for your mental health if somebody

    eats it with you.

    That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to have breakfast with.

    Possibly it is even worse to eat oatmeal with an imaginary companion.

    Nevertheless, yesterday morning, I ate my oatmeal with John keats.

    Keats said I was right to invite him: due to its glutinous texture, gluey

    lumpishness, hint of slime, and unusual willingness to disintegrate,

    oatmeal must never be eaten alone.

    He said it is perfectly OK, however to eat it with an imaginary companion,

    and he himself had enjoyed memorable porridges with Edmund Spenser

    and John Milton.

    He also told me about writing the “Ode to a Nightingale”.

    He wrote it quickly, he said, on scraps of paper, which he then stuck in

    his pocket,

    but when he got home he couldn’t figure out the order of the stanzas,

    and he and a friend spread the papers on a table, and they made

    some sense of them, but he isn’t sure to this day if they got it right.

    He still wonders about the occasional sense of drift between stanzas,

    and the way here and there a line will go into the configuration of a

    Moslem at prayer, then raise itself up and peer about, then lay

    itself down slightly off the mark, causing the poem to move

    forward with God’s reckless wobble.

    He said someone told him that later in life Wordsworth heard about

    the scraps of paper on the table, and tried shuffling some stanzas

    of his own, but only made matters worse.

    When breakfast was over, John recited “ To Autumn”

    He recited it slowly, with much feeling, and he articulated the words

    lovingly, and his odd accent sounded sweet.

    He didn’t offer the story of writing “To Autumn”, I doubt if there is

    much of one.

    But he did say the sight of a just-harvested oat field got him started on it

    and two of the lines, “For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells”

    and “Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours” came to him

    while eating oatmeal alone.

    I can see him – drawing a spoon through the stuff, gazing into the

    glimmering furrows, muttering – and it occurs to me:

    maybe there is no sublime, only the shining of the amnion’s tatters.

    for supper tonight I am going to have a baked potato left over from


    I’m aware that a leftover baked potato can be damp, slippery, and

    simultaneously gummy and crumbly,

    and therefore I’m going to invite Patrick Kavanagh to join me.

    Galway Kinnell.

  2. I understand that need to have a place all your own, a place where you can be completely yourself. And I do want that place to be a room full of books! Thank you for participating and sharing the poem by Emily Dickinson; it's one of my favorites!