by Carolyn Martin
In her engaging essay,“Perfect Ripeness: Eight That Mattered,”Jodie Marion discussed eight books that buoyed her during flash points in her life. She motivated me to pay attention to the words that flash through my mind when horrific news breaks on TV, when my writing stalls or when a moment of beauty moves me deeply. Here are eight quotations that, without fail, show up when I need them.
Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom …
The night is dark, and I am far from home …
I do not ask to see the distant scene;
one step enough for me.
– John Henry Newman, “The Pillar of Cloud”
These lines arrive whenever I feel lost in the world’s “encircling gloom” – whether it’s the Boston bombing, a hurricane, or the massacre of innocent people. I begin to fear a world where, in W.B Yeats’ words, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold … .” Newman reminds me the only control I have is to move forward one moment at a time, one step at a time with trust that a “kindly Light” will make the lost-in-the-dark times bearable.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
– Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur”
I am a Taurus who is deeply connected to Earth. This line thrills me for its double entendre: The world is both “in charge” of that grandeur as a custodian of its magnificent and also is electrified by its beauty.Whether standing in my backyard swaying with Douglas firs or standing eye to eye with hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, saguaros in Tucson or sea turtles in Maui, I’m enflamed by the grandeur created by a Loving Energy – no matter what I call it. These words smash through the dark night. Another kindly Light.
Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
– Robert Frost, “Birches”
Frost is one of my favorite poets.His words remind me that Earth is the playground, the schoolroom, the battlefield where we need to get love right. If not here, not at all.
somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence …
– ee cummings, “somewhere I have never travelled”
I am an unabashed romantic and ee cummings has written one of my favorite love poems. His imagery brings me to tears: “… the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses … .” Oh, to be the recipient of that line. Or, better yet, the writer of that line! Treat yourself to the entire poem.
I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
it after all, a place for the genuine.
– Marianne Moore, “Poetry”
What is more useless than spending days writing a poem? And yet, how joyous to fiddle with imaginative and emotional truth; to twist and turn with the richness of language; to listen to the music vowels and consonants make as lines take shape and images appear; and, perhaps, to discover a “place for the genuine” where someone, somewhere, might just discover me and join me for a stroll.
The more I practice, the luckier I get.
– Gary Palmer
Ten thousand hours of practice: That’s what the experts say it takes to become a master musician, artist, athlete, dancer, writer. Practice is a better indicator of success, they say, than raw talent. But “practice makes perfect” is not quite right. Practicing the right things in the right way is. If I want to become a better poet, I need to find those right things and that right way – which are different for everyone. And, I need to find poets who are better than I am to practice with.That’s forging my “luck,” not waiting for it to happen!
To have the deep Poetic Heart/Is more than all poetic fame.
– Alfred Lord Tennyson
When rejections arrive in bunches or poems get stalled, Tennyson’s words buoy me. Cultivating the “deep poetic heart” is the essential work of everyday and more valuable than any recognition.It demands attentiveness and openness to those moments of insight breaking through life’s distractions. It challenges me to feel deeply, love deeply, fail deeply, practice deeply, and to find genuine words for all of these experiences. Fame passes; the heart beats on.
It is beautiful to do nothing and rest afterwards.
– A Spanish proverb
As a recovering work addict, I have always defined myself by what I produced. Now in retirement when there are no planes to catch, clients to please, deadlines to meet (except for VoiceCatcher’s!), I’m learning the art of “being.” An enlightened friend recently told me if I did nothing more with the remainder of my life, what I’ve already accomplished is enough. Now that’s freedom – and I’m resting with that thought!
Take the “eight that matter” challenge: What are the eight songs, poems, movies, sites, relationships that have nurtured, supported or inspired you? Send your eight and why they are meaningful – in 800 to 900 words – to info(at)voicecatcher(dot)org. Let’s share what matters.
Carolyn Martin is a poet, gardener and traveler. Her poems have appeared in publications such as Stirring, 5/Quarterly, Drash and Naugatuck River Review. Currently, she is president of the board of directors of VoiceCatcher.