Molly Peacock says, “poetry that comes at a desperate moment in a life can feel as if it saves that life.”
And she says, “There are people on dialysis machines, people on third rounds of chemotherapy, who discover poetry because it is so fearless in the face of disaster.”
She also says, “When I imagine my audience I think of someone up late at night looking for the consolation of a like mind and picking my book off the shelf.”
When I write these words, it’s not night now, however. It’s afternoon. A cold cloudy sometimes rainy Oregon fall has turned into a colder cloudier and wetter Oregon winter. Outside the sun is setting. It is the first day of December. And I have just finished rereading a poem by Molly Peacock.
The name of the poem: Novembers.
Earlier in the week, walking near my house, in the Southern Oregon countryside, I watch flights of Canada geese, in rough ragged formations, leaving the nearby irrigation pond they call home, cutting across to the hills of the nearby Siskiyou mountains, then turning, veering and heading back to the cold water of the pond, where there are still enough grasses, weeds, small insects and tiny fish to nourish themselves, to keep alive. Many of the nearby trees have lost their foliage and loom bare-limbed in the cold but a few still blaze with the blood reds, oranges and yellows of the late-departed fall. Like the flames of a wood stove.
A good time for this poem.
Novembers were the months that begin with No.
“Oh no.” They died in embers. Above were
V’s of geese in skies lit from those low
Even fires. The fires of fall were
Mirrors for the feelings I felt before
Being. I’m telling you now I feel I
Exist for the first time! Neither the bareness nor the
Roughness demoralize–I realize I
See much clearer what leafless branches show.
Molly Peacock also suggests – both to poets trying to get themselves published and, by extension, to many others – that you don’t need to grow a thick skin to protect yourself. From rejection. “If you’re a poet, you have a thin skin. Period. That thin membrane between you and the world lets you write. So of course you’re going to be hurt.”
Allow yourself the time to feel wounded, she says. Then persist. And persist again.
Like the geese.
And the trees.
And those plants, whose seemingly dead seed-pods….may still hold the germ of new life.