Poet Jane Hirshfield said "... the feeling I have about poem-writing (is) that it is always an exploration, of discovering something I didn't already know.  Who I am shifts from moment to moment, year to year.  What I can perceive does as well.  A new poem peers into mystery, into whatever lies just beyond the edge of knowable ground."

I bring a different poem to the writing classes each week, not only to inspire but to introduce new poets to the group members.

Birch Bark by Michael Ondaatje

  for George Whalley 

An hour after the storm on Birch Lake 
the island bristles. Rock. Leaves still falling. 
At this time, in the hour after lightning 
we release the canoes. 
Silence of water 
purer than the silence of rock. 
A paddle touches itself. We move 
over blind mercury, feel the muscle 
within the river, the blade 
weave in dark water. 

Now each casual word is precisely chosen 
passed from bow to stern, as if 
leaning back to pass a canteen. 
There are echoes, repercussions of water. 
We are in absolute landscape, 
among names that fold in onto themselves. 

To circle the island means witnessing 
the blue grey dust of a heron 
released out of the trees. 
So the dialogue slides 
nothing more than friendship 
an old song we break into 
not needing all the words. 

We are past naming the country. 
The reflections are never there 
without us, without the exhaustion 
of water and trees after storm.

~from The Cinnamon Peeler (Vintage International, 1997)


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