Arts & Culture
Poems for the Season...
Amidst the holiday tinsel and frenzy -- let's get relief with some low-tech poems, a good antidote! KUNC’s Peter Johnson invited-in past and current poet laureates of Colorado for their gift of poetry.
Editor's Note: The Following is a transcript of the audio in this story:
Peter Johnson: Well, poets surely ‘wonder as they wander,’ in their unique ways. And poet Mary Crow, welcome. Please help us calm down in this hectic time, what do you have?
Mary Crow: I’d like to read the final stanza of my poem, “The Morning of the Morning.” It’s set just outside Rocky Mountain National Park at dawn, after new snow.
Tires rumble as a jeep passes,
Rumble and in hours will crescendo into a roar,
And down on the plains into that background drone I don’t hear even when it penetrates walls and sleep because I’ve learned, haven’t you, to live without one square inch of silence.
But it’s morning light filling the skies if you’re up to see it.
Sky washed white with thin clouds, ground white with last night’s snow.
PJ: What was on your mind in this poem, Mary?
MC: I went to the Park to be inspired and I was very conscious of the fact that on the way there it wasn’t nature I was seeing as much as our intrusion into nature. Deer and elk, for example, in a farmer’s corral eating horse’s hay. And I was thinking, well, is this nature I’ve come to? But then, you feel -- ah yes, ah yes, it is.
PJ: Thank you, Mary Crow. She was Colorado’s poet laureate from 1996 to 2010.
Our current poet laureate is David Mason who has chosen to read, “A Christmas Song” by English poet, Wendy Cope.
Why is the baby crying on this his special day?
When we have brought him lovely gifts and laid them on the hay;
He’s crying for the people who greet this day with dread,
Because somebody dear to them is far away or dead.
For all the men and women whose love affairs went wrong,
Who try their best at merriment when Christmas comes along
For separated parents whose turn it is to grieve,
While children hang their stocking up elsewhere on Christmas Eve.
For everyone whose burden carried through the year
Is heavier at Christmas time, the season of good cheer.
That’s why the baby’s crying, there in the cattle stall,
He’s crying for those people, he’s crying for them all.
David Mason: One of the things I love about Wendy’s poetry is how light it is but she’s actually dealing with very serious things here. She’s dealing with compassion, and the suggestion that this season is not just something that commemorates the birth of Christ for Christians but it’s also a season that reminds us about the meaning of compassion in the holiday.
PJ: Indeed, and you brought one of your own poems.
DM: The second poem I want to read is a poem I wrote the day after the death of the great psychologist and writer, James Hillman. It was snowing out, and my partner and I saw a fox out in the yard. The poem is called, “The Soul Fox.”
My love, the fox is in the yard.
The snow will bear his print a while,
then melt and go.
But we who saw his way of finding out, his night of seeking,
know what we have seen, and are the better for it.
Write. Let the white page bear the mark, then melt with joy upon the dark.
To me, this was a moment of a kind of transcendent, almost mystical joy – seeing the fox which is my favorite wild animal and thinking about the death of this great man, and thinking about the effort we have as writers to say something and how what we say will very likely melt and go, just as the snow does.
PJ: Much to linger on there. So what does poetry do for us?
DM: Human life, for people who are inarticulate, is a life of suffering. So poetry really is the most intense form of articulateness. If you can articulate your feelings, your suffering or your joy is understandable, is given shape. I would not argue that poetry is more important than music which to me is the greatest of all the arts, the art that goes directly to the spinal column as it were.
PJ: Wish we had time for more. Thank you, David
DM: Thank you, Peter, it’s my pleasure.
PJ: In this busy season, reflections from two poet laureates of Colorado: the current bard, David Mason, and his predecessor, Mary Crow.