I have a few little ditties marinating at the moment – a rant/open letter to the founders of Airbnb in the aftermath of what I saw as a relatively disastrous presentation by Joe Gebbia at FailCon earlier this week; another one about my experience running a 1/2 marathon and another that … well, you’ll see.
In the mean time … poetry.
A couple of weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of going to hear Mary Oliver. Now if you don’t know who Mary Oliver is, well … for starters you can click on that link I included in this sentence. For those who prefer to read through an entire post before traipsing down the rabbit hole maze of links within blog posts, here’s an overview. Mary Oliver is an American treasure. Full stop. She’s an award-winning poet (Pulitzer and National Book Award). Her poetry leans towards the lyrical, true storytelling through a lens as sharply focused as the eyes of a hawk. She misses nothing and pulls no punches in telling it precisely how she sees it.
After spending about an hour taking us on a journey through a broad selection of her work – including several new pieces that have yet to be published – Ms. Oliver took some questions from the crowd. One young woman stood up and asked for tips that would help a budding young poet get their feet firmly planted on the path towards a literary career. Ms. Oliver paused briefly and began offering a solid laundry list of ideas, one of which stuck in my head. She said to find a poem that truly resonated and read it … every day for 30 days. She said to explore a single work in such depth and breadth would allow the language to gently unfold in your mind.
Immediately I began to think … what poem would I read? From which poet would it be? It seemed obvious that I would pick Mary Oliver as a book of her work always sits next to my bed (in fact that same book travels with me almost everywhere I go). When I got home that night, I realized that tucked alongside the teetering stack of books that inclines Pisa-like on my nightstand, there was a small book – Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. I began to page through it remembered immediately why I adore his work.
Whether in Spanish or English (this particular volume has each poem in the original Spanish on one side juxtaposed by the English translation), you cannot help but feel as though you’ve just slipped into a delightfully clear lake on a sharply hot summer day and lay floating on the surface, gently buoyed by crisp coolness below while warmed by the sun from above. I began thinking about some recent experiences, personal lessons learned and new people I’d come to know, and mused that it was within this book that my daily poetry reading would come.
Now the problem was – which to pick.
I’ve not settled on one yet, but this one is a top contender … and so I wanted to share:
“The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.”
― Pablo Neruda, Still Another Day