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Saturday, February 3, 2018

When your world looks like a poem


“If after I read a poem the world looks like that poem for 24 hours or so I'm sure it's a good one—and the same goes for paintings.” – Elizabeth Bishop

Bishop, who was both a poet and a painter, was somewhat obscure during her lifetime (she died in 1979) despite the fact that she won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1955.   But her reputation has grown in recent years and she is now often called one of America’s most important 20th century poets.       Born on Feb. 8, 1911, Bishop spent long periods of time polishing her work, publishing just 101 poems (included in the 1984 volume The Complete Poems).  Her underlying themes include the struggle to find a sense of belonging, and the human experiences of grief and longing.   Here, for Saturday’s Poem, is Bishop’s,   

Intimate, Low-Voiced, Delicate Things

It is marvellous to wake up together
At the same minute; marvellous to hear
The rain begin suddenly all over the roof,
To feel the air suddenly clear
As if electricity had passed through it
From a black mesh of wires in the sky.
All over the roof the rain hisses,
And below, the light falling of kisses.

An electrical storm is coming or moving away;
It is the prickling air that wakes us up.
If lighting struck the house now, it would run
From the four blue china balls on top
Down the roof and down the rods all around us,
And we imagine dreamily
How the whole house caught in a bird-cage of lightning
Would be quite delightful rather than frightening;

And from the same simplified point of view
Of night and lying flat on one's back
All things might change equally easily,
Since always to warn us there must be these black
Electrical wires dangling. Without surprise
The world might change to something quite different,
As the air changes or the lightning comes without our blinking,
Change as our kisses are changing without our thinking.


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