“Break yourself open at the breaking point,
you, body of the one I love,
into another genesis, into the cataclysm…”
In another life, I planned to be a poet. I spent hours perfecting the craft of iambic pentameter and the beauty of haiku. I wanted to share my world in the ways of Annie Dillard and Carolyn Kizer. I dreamed to write the revolutionary poems of my generation, to echo the energy and moment of Audre Lorde and bell hooks. Somewhere on the journey, though, poetry got pushed aside for creative nonfiction and the radical energy was channeled into action, not words.
But on a cold winter night, when the rain outside freezes before the ground, I want to curl up with a book of poems and a cup of tea and not consider the challenges we face every day. One of the few poets who returns to my life over and over again is Pablo Neruda. Best known for his love poems and his prolific writing, Neruda is a watcher, a seer of beauty in all moments. Though I believe poetry is best read in its original language, I have found that the Copper Canyon Press translations are most delightful to my eyes and ears.
In Stones of the Sky, we find a collection of thirty poems written to Nature, a being worthy of the greatest love. Deepened by his love of the Chilean landscape of his birth, Neruda writes to crystals, stones, birds, water, and trees with a clarity that comes from years of romance. His language, with a unique command of description that is evocative but not overwhelming, brings each sense present to the scene of love he describes. With a translation by James Nolan that faces the original Spanish for every poem, this version is more than just a book of poetry. It’s a record. A memory.
had not only clouds,
not only space smelling of oxygen,
but an earthly stone
flashing here and there
changed into a dove,
changed into a bell,
into immensity, into a piercing
into a phosphorescent arrow,
into salt of the sky.
In the deepest parts of winter, I reach for the sunlight, however it may appear.
In a poem, a song, a cup of tea with a friend, the smile of a stranger. We walk so silently, so loudly, through this journey, and I wonder how often we miss these moments on sunlight. Poetry, of the love kind or the nature kind or the all kinds, poetry is my window into that bright April day when the air is crisp and the learning is deep. Neruda, or Audre Lorde, or Annie Dillard, or you — these are the poets of my heart.
What is your favorite poem? Who is your favorite poet?