I Don’t Want to Skim Through Life
– from”Head of the Year” by Marge Piercy –
Yes, it’s a new year but I have the same old morning ritual as always…
- Make coffee.
- Grab the canvas tote bag that holds my journal and the books that I’m reading.
- Sit down in the living room by the floor lamp with my “Be Happy” mug of fresh, dark coffee.
- Pull out whatever book of poems I am currently on and start reading.
- As soon as I’m grabbed by a poem because of the wording, flow, humor, truth, or hard slap, I jot down a few lines in my journal.
- Then I write my own words, which may comment on the poem or not.
This way of taking in a poem can take days or even weeks, depending on how long or complex the piece is. Whatever lines I’m writing down, whether they are at the beginning, middle or end of the poem, I always read the whole thing over again to see if I discover something new.
Okay, so some people might be thinking this sounds a bit OCDish or just plain boring. But I like taking in the words this way. I love the surprise of taking something that I’m already familiar with and diving deeper and deeper, finding that words, like water, shift and look different, depending on how much light is shining and how much turbulence is going on underneath the surface.
If I just read a poem and think “Wow! That was cool!” Then move on to another, the words of one wash away the other before I’m ready.
It makes me think of when I was a kid and the occasional children’s pony ride my mom let me go on. It wasn’t easy for my mom to get me to wash the lingering pony smell off myself and my clothing. One sniff and I was back in the saddle all over again. Who wants to let go of that kind of magic?
This experience of poetry reading, of lingering with the words and letting them sink in, makes me wonder how much of life I live by only reading it once, too quickly, then moving on to something fresh… new… Always seeking something new to see, to hear, to taste, to wear, to be.
How much do I miss by not really looking? By being distracted by busy thoughts and lassoed up by the next whiz-bang thing?
Bringing in something new isn’t bad. Who knows how long I’ll keep this up with poetry before I have another idea to improve my writing and a new ritual (or practice) begins. The problem lies with moving on too quickly or not even being present in the first place.
I am with you.. In 2014 I have promised myself to Pause.. pause and take in the beautiful things around me. Happy New Year!
I couldn’t possibly agree more! You said it perfectly.
Happy New Year to you.