JK: Reading Poetry
Often I begin my writing day by reading poetry. Barbara Crooker is a favorite. Rainer Maria Rilke, another. My editor at WaterBrook Press, Dudley Delffs, introduced me to poet Mary Oliver a few years back. I’d never heard of her. Tells you how out of touch I was! But since he sent me one of her book of poems, I find her everywhere; awareness informing memory.
A few weeks ago, a friend whose wife had passed away (we’d been unable to attend the memorial) sent us his wife’s service program and inside was a Mary Oliver Poem called "When Death Comes." Each line was memorable. Each word evoked such emotion. I found myself reading and re-reading it and then reading it out loud to my husband, sending a copy of it to my friend who is dying and deciding to read it at an upcoming memorial service our church is holding for the 9/11 anniversary.
The line that touched me greatest dealt with how the poet wanted to feel when death comes for her and she said she wanted to say that she’d been “a bride married to amazement/a bridegroom who opened his arms to the world.”
That’s what I think writing is about, the privilege of being “married to amazement” and of opening our “arms to the world.” There is pain in those choices and disappointment, too. Life isn’t always amazing. Sometimes it’s just hard and filled with broken down machinery (we live on a ranch). Sometimes when we open our arms to others they turn away (I have my collection of rejection looks and letters). But the alternative is to give our readers words that don’t lead to amazement at all, words that say the same old thing, that speak of hardships, perhaps, but never of hope. It’s to give to our readers stories that don’t stretch outward, that keep what’s close in but makes sure nothing else penetrates those closed arms.
Someone once said that it isn’t true that we only use a small percentage of our brain. If fact, we do use all of it and 99% of our brain works at shutting out the amazing things in our world, to keep our arms closed tightly over our chests rather than open to what might be. If the brain didn’t shut that down we’d be walking around agog with the wonders of creation, other people’s open arms included.
Surely much of the writing life is meant to help us stayed amazed and to invite our readers to be amazed as well; it’s meant to keep our arms open so that when death comes we can say we truly lived.
Jane Kirkpatrick, www.jkbooks.com
Award-winning author of 12 novels and two non-fiction books. A Clearing in the Wild, Book One of the Change and Cherish Series (WaterBrook Press/Random House) is available now!