Monday, April 9, 2012

i know you are reading this poem

Toads? It's Marian, with the pleasure of having personally challenged Turtle-Memoir Ruth. Ruth's poem is so magnificent, I'll save all the expository stuff for the end. Please read, and ponder, and then read again:
I know you are reading this poem
now because you’ve read hers, because
you recognized the opening line the way you knew
her sun-sourced eyes spelled truth no matter how
or where she placed her words and letters on a page.
I know you’re thinking how she’s passed, you’ve seen the last
of words she penned – there’ll be no new ones. I know
you long to find just one more poem, you dream
of resurrection.

I know you are reading this poem because you saw her name
and like a drowning sailor clutching at the broken mast of one
who threaded life for you, who rendered truth in wholesome bites for you,
you hoped this homespun yarn of phrases built upon her words
might buoy you up, a temporary fix to float you into harbor,
to let you face her without tears again.

I know you are reading this poem because you’ve tired of the old,
the gods, the myths you swallowed whole that keep you prisoned
still in someone else’s notion of your place in life, in time. Perhaps
you fear a present without her to ground and guide may mire you
again in past – that hellish-faced familiar holds no comfort
after her, …but who will help you plumb the depths
of future’s sea?

I know you are reading this poem remembering
your years of standing in her vision, and being changed.
I know you are reading this poem now because you know
it’s not enough to let another alter you, because she asked
us to re-write ourselves till we were changed
by our own process.

I know you are reading this poem while waiting
for the impetus to write again, to re-explore the myths again
that foundered you, to re-create the stories that will float
your spirit into change, …to reinvent yourself, thereby
to redefine humanity in ways that, pointing, do not rend
but draw this broad diversity of humans into one, new
Atlas, no longer of the Difficult World.

It happened that I was to challenge Ruth on the day that Adrienne Rich passed, so my challenge for Ruth was to write a poem based on any part of Adrienne Rich's life, her writing, or her being that inspires. I am inspired, impressed... nah, completely blown away by Ruth's response. Here is what she said about her process in addressing her challenge:
I was aiming for a poem that would remind readers of Adrienne and what she stood for, but that would at the same time remind them (us) of our own commitment to affect change in the world perhaps, as she did, through poetry (I'd been reading, among other things, her 2007 essay: Poetry and Commitment). I also wanted my poem to be couched in a form that AR readers would recognize. For this I chose a poem I found online, from An Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-91.
This poem hits me hard, just as Adrienne's so often did. The second-to-last stanza, about remembering our years of standing in her vision, but changing by our own process? Ruth may as well have written those lines for me. I'm simply blown away. BRAVO, RUTH!


Susie Clevenger said...

What a wonderful poem...Ruth you have done an amazing job on this one.

Mary said...

What a beautiful poem and wonderful tribute to a poet who influenced so many. It blows me away and shows me again why we all write.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Reading this poem has reminded me why I am so excited about the goals we have set for RT members: to be inspired to take our writing to the next level by creating opportunities, supporting one another's efforts and even pushing further than we thought possible.

This poem is in a class of its own, and belongs in the category reserved for American Poets of the 21st Century.

I'm so gratified to have Marian come up with the idea, and really privileged to have been able to read it first on Real Toads.

Grace said...

Beautiful words Ruth, you rose to the challenge very well. This is a lovely tribute to the woman whose words are an inspiration. Your words resonated with me as I am very new in writing ~

Marian, a worthwhile challenge, thanks ~

Marian said...

it's fantastic, isn't it? this poem really does move me to tears. i simply love it. thank you, Ruth.

Maude Lynn said...

Oh, wow. This is amazing, Ruth.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

WOW!!!!!! Ruth! fellow Islander! You have just blown my proverbial socks off. I read Adrienne's poem and honestly, your poem SHOULD be recognized by the League of Poets. It is that good. It also inspires the reader, which the very best poetry does, to want to speak in the same sort of voice. I was especially moved by the stanza Kerry mentions, about re-writing ourselves till we are changed by our own process.

Marian, fantastic challenge and Ruth, my hat is off to you. What a remarkable piece of writing to come upon of a Tuesday morning, over tea. Just brilliant.

Mary Ann Potter said...

I don't know how often folks say "congratulations" in response to a poem, but I am saying it here. A marvel of a work. You've expressed the often-inexpressible.
Congratulations. I loved it!

Cheryl Klarich said...

Lovely writing.

Lolamouse said...


De Jackson said...

This is just beautiful.
Poetry Mixtape had a challenge a few weeks back, to pattern a poem after Rich's. I admit my novice when I say I had not read it yet. I was blown away, and enjoyed the exercise immensely.

I LOVE Ruth's offering, especially:
"I know you are reading this poem while waiting
for the impetus to write again, to re-explore the myths again
that foundered you, to re-create the stories that will float
your spirit into change"


Hannah said...

This is hard-hitting in its beauty and truth. Excellent, Ruth!

Kay L. Davies said...

Wonderfully done, Ruth. What a perfect personal challenge, Marian.

Lauren said...

Wow -- this resonates with my Rich experience, then and now.

Herotomost said...

Ok....third time trying to post to the moderation on? Was I right on my let try when I said that marian probably hates me and is deleting me....Marrriiiaannnnn! OK enough sorry. Ruth, this was as good a response to a challenge as any I have seen. You mad a a killer tribute here wrapped in a message that I know I will carry with me. I love the way you stepped up and the closing lines are amazing.

marian...despite your apparent distaste for everything crowley (kidding...I hope)...I want to say you put up a fantastic challenge...I new you would.

Herotomost said...

Sorry about all the typos...I suck.

shawnacy said...

stunning. AR is the real thing, and this poem stands in staunch, beautiful tribute.

Marian said...

what are you talking about, Mr. Crowley? i *lurves* you.

Ella said...

Wow Ruth, I am so impressed and in awe! I have to read it again, so touching and such a challenge to evoke this response~
Great challenge Marian; what a lovely tribute! Thank you Ruth for sharing~

Anonymous said...

Thank you all, and especially Marian who with one tap of the wa-, er, baton, gave me a challenge among challenges by asking me to write about a poet, just deceased, whose writings were totally new to me. Wow! Adrienne! - it was love at first read. And the challenge brought me completely out of who I normally consider myself to be. Thanks, Marian!

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Just coming to this, via Sherry Blue Sky. A simply wonderful tribute, delving deep into the spirit she expressed, and going beyond tribute to express that same spirit too. Thank you!