Sunday poem

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Let the sea be an arctic landscape on the page

shadow of its hills and the white blue of its valleys

let a boat turn, throwing out cloudy swirls

and a bird run cross the surface of the sea

a knife of light between the peppercorns

the reasonable, persistent movement

of a boat under engine

shallows ribboning

settle, as snow settles

what you want

is closer and closer

to nothing

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14 thoughts on “Sunday poem

  1. Thank you. This bay is right outside my house so I have plenty of time to stare at it and think nothing at all. It’s interesting that I took this photo in bright sunlight and it has come out these lovely silvers and greys. And thanks for the follow. We make a point of regularly visiting people who follow us, so will be checking out your blog.

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    1. I had to go off and look at this poem. I can see what you mean. But in fact the inspiration for the poem was Rilke’s saying “Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write?” In earlier version of the poems I had this as an epigraph. It was written as a reaction to this, trying to take the ego completely out of the process. I decided that the poem could stand on its own (“No ideas but in things”) and so took the epigraph away. It doesn’t matter, though, what my thinking was if the poem speaks to different people in different ways.

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  2. Thanks for that explanation of how the poem came to be. I’ve been trying to get my head around the attraction of ‘nothingness’ since you first pointed me in Wallace Stevens’ direction.

    What follows is not quite the same thing, but to me a related observation – for years I’ve been interested in the pull away from the social world in some American and Australian poets vis-a-vis European ones. It is as though, in frontier societies, the social fabric has stretched so thin (for some poets and prose writers too) as to become diaphanous.

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  3. No, i’m not thinking about postmodernists, but poets like Robert Frost and prose writers like Marilynne Robinson, (in ‘Housekeeping’), and in different ways Mark Twain and Herman Melville – writers for whom leaving behind the social worlds they know can be enormously attractive. Of course Europe has its nature poets and i don’t wish to denigrate them, but their kind of nature poetry has a completely different feel.

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