Friday, January 27, 2017

Anne Porter, once and this is

Again following in my theme of all things Maine and New York School of Poetry-ish and memoir, haiku prose, flash. All this to say: I’ve been reading the poems of Anne Porter. Her first collection, An Altogether Different Language (1994), published when she was 83, was named a finalist for the National Book Award. Her other volume of poetry is Living Things: Collected Poems (2006).

I was struck upon beginning this collection how many of her poems seem to be reminisces. In deed, she lived a long life, passing away in 2011 just shy of 100th birthday. A number of her poems begin with the word once.

The Wingéd Children

Once when my friends
Were driving through the desert
In Mexico

They passed a pickup truck
And in the back of it

Each with a pair of wings
Of sky-blue plush

Such as is used
For making bedroom-slippers

There rode a dozen little
Mexican children.

In addition she began a series of poems with This is.

Summer Cottage

This is a house
That smells of melons and roses
Sea-wind pours through it
The airy curtains float
And the wiry sprays
Of the sea-lavender
Tremble on the table

The hushed roar
Of the massive ocean
Covers us night and day
It shelters us
Like a tree shadow
We live in it
As in a forest.

Her simple language bestows a haiku hush. Her subject matter is mostly ordinary, domestic: her children (she had five), her home, her faith (a late convert to Catholicism). Her work exudes a humility, a selflessness see Burning. So that even though she writes about the tangible, she is at the same time revealing another dimension, something beyond this world.  This is a collection filled with vignettes, haiku-like thoughts, remembrances, odes, and tributes to others.

For Hot flash Friday—why not try this:

Begin by using the word once
Work on another piece with the zen-like this is

Go, write right now.

She shares a resemblance I think to Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement

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