Such Singing… In poets and art

Original Date: Apr 9, 2015

I didn’t always enjoy reading poetry.  For a long time, I just plain hated it.  Why couldn’t people simply say what they intended, with clarity, so that I didn’t have to read between the lines.  The only poetry I loved was the Tao Te Ching.  And perhaps a few lines by T.S. Eliot. Especially that bit about the women coming and going talking of Michelangelo.  That always drew me in.

But over time I began to appreciate the artful lines and carefully chosen words.  Such sweet images can be conveyed, intense emotion, how is it possible with just a few written words on a page?  This is an art more skillful than my visual arts background.  It makes drawing seem easy.  With visual art you engage the retina, the rest goes right to the mind itself.  These words convey on a different level, entirely different processes.  How to engage the visual mind when you are not using visuals?  A Picture says a thousand words, but poetry only has a few words and can convey a deep range of emotion and experience.

Of late I have been enjoying words, and the skillful placement of words.  It is like design.  How does this word feel when placed next to that one.  This is a new game.


I enjoy looking at the masters.  Mary Oliver is one such master, and her words are like silken threads of wisdom.   So here is a cheat, a poem by Mary Oliver that conveys my feelings about this all too long wintery spring season and is ever present and solemn coolness.   Enjoy.

Such Singing in the Wild Branches

It was spring
and I finally heard him
among the first leaves––
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness––
and that’s when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree––
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing––
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfect blue sky–––all of them

were singing.
And, of course, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

For more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then––open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

-Mary Oliver