Echoes of Bliss

English: Frontispiece of the 1922 edition of R...

1922 edition of Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg. Illustration by Maud and Miska Petersham. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A poem is an echo,
asking a shadow to dance.”
-Carl Sandburg

A lovely way to define poetry, but what does it mean? Pretty words undefined by our  experiences are just pretty words.

For a long time I did not appreciate poetry—possibly due to a Canadian literature course I took at university that seemed to hone in on Canadian poetry that defined our great nation as a cold, forbidding, and sterile place—which was the exact opposite of my experience. Mind you, I live in an area (southwestern Ontario) where we brag about being the “southernmost” part of Canada, so we possibly experience much more moderate weather conditions than many of our northerly brothers and sisters.

I have found that there is certain poetry that “speaks” to me, and it is generally poetry that talks of everyday things in a way that makes me look differently at the world. Each of us sees the world with a unique vision, and these visions can expand our experience.

I now collect poetry, but the poetry I collect speaks of everyday things. It is not dark and dank and angst ridden. There is a poetry contest in Canada that asks us to write poems and enter them to win a good amount of money and publication. I have read some of the poetry that has won this contest in past years and it is generally not “happy” poetry about daffodils, or hanging out the wash, or planting tomatoes. It generally has a depth I cannot plumb. I guess I like poetry that is expressed simply with beautiful language.

In an attempt to write something I think would be considered for the contest—I went to my dark place and came up with the following:

Not Safe

The shadows are cast

Shutters open to reveal a life broken

Exposed.

Just outside the door a welcome mat beckons

But it lies

No one is welcome here

Pain, hurt, and agony

Make their home here.

A red couch long abandoned

Its pillows ripped and frayed and soiled

Pillows strewn on the floor

Pretty fringed cast offs

Carpet muddied and matted……………..

Then I stopped writing the poem. It is not me. As angst ridden as the next person, I could not sustain this attitude long enough to write 500 – 600 words. I kind of depressed myself. It is apparent to me that my dark side is not dark enough, or sustainable.

Daffodil & Summer-snowflake

Daffodil & Summer-snowflake (Photo credit: ericdege)

Granted, I may live in a world of denial at times, but I like pretty words and pretty worlds, and what I so painfully came up with in my lame attempt to be considered for a prize is not authentically me. So I will write about trees with lacy limbs, snowflakes melting on tongues, and baby chuckles—and leave the dark side to those who can do it justice.

If as Sandburg says: “A poem is an echo, asking a shadow to dance” then mine is a dance of hope whose shadows are shallow.

Bliss is realizing what is authentic, and what is not. What do you think?

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35 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You can pretend to be someone else, and your poem albeit full of pretense, is very good. If it isn’t authentic, your purpose as a writer as you describe, is not fulfilled. Might be fun to dabble in pretend once in awhile but a steady diet might leave you a bit empty. Your bliss will be realized Lou, because you have a grip on “you”.

    • I have trouble keeping up pretense–but your are right –if I use imagination I might be able to continue witht the poem–it does not have to be based on real life to be a good piece of writing–you are one smart cookie!

  2. Glad you are not “angst-ridden”

    • well, I think all of us have some angst–but I would rather not bask in it (lol)

  3. Got me thinking!

  4. LouAnn, the value of living an authentic life is prize enough. I say good for you and good for us all that you don’t want to cross over to the dark side. Keep on the sunny side!

  5. Great post, LouAnn. Like you, I just can’t make myself go to that dark side very often and when I’m there, I certainly don’t want to write about it! It’s not worth dragging yourself through the mud to try to be something you’re not.

    • you made an excellent point–when I am really bummed I do not feel like writing about it in the least

  6. I guess you never know what people see when choosing a winner for a poetry contest. I say just stick to being you & what you feel. If it comes from the heart – you’re always a winner.
    (The cash would be nice though).

  7. Nothing like an english lit class to dampen your love of words, is there? That poem didn’t sound much like you – I don’t see a problem with always looking on the bright side of life (got that Life of Brian song in your head now?).

    • and the images that go with it–nope, no Canadian poetry awards for me! I took a lot of english classes — some would make you swear off reading, but the others were pretty good–and they won out–but boy did I have some boring profs!

      • I had some real doozies too – enough that I still hate some Canadian authors like Timothy Findlay and Margaret Atwood. Maybe it’s only Canlit profs that are boring.

      • I like Margaret Atwood because of Cat’s Eye–not her earlier stuff which was what was taught when I was in school — she was guilty of frozen north writing too; I did not read Findlay at school–I read one book for book club but he is not a favourite — would not read him again

  8. Remember when I tried to designate Tuesdays as “Toxic Tuesday” – and then I backed out? Same thing. It’s not a good fit for either of us. It’s too tight and confining. I think we need the comfort of a soft focus, open, gentle, flowing, easy… We seek things that are lovely and that enhances the quality of our day. The other is negative — too much darkness, too harsh. Lately, I feel like I live on “Pain, Hurt, Agony” Boulevard!! haha! I certainly don’t want to take up residence here. I need to live on the sunny side of the street – it’s where I feel more comfortable and at home. I think you’re the same way.

    • I think you are so right — we are just not dark — and I love the way you express it “the comfort of a soft focus, open, gentle, flowing, easy…..” so much nicer than negativity — what — your Toxic Tuesdays lasted for one post–that is because angst is not us

  9. Generally I’m not a huge fan of poetry but I have a liking for darker ones like Edgar Allen poe – people who explore the inhumane side of humanity :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  10. Yes, bliss is realizing what is authentically us in the moment. Perhaps at another moment your dark side might want to speak through a poem, but it has to come from the heart of us, does it not? As a teenager I wrote poems FULL of angst and anger. Did you write poetry as a kid?

    • I did – but I was not very deep as a teenager — if the dark is real then it is authentic – my poem was just a work of imagination for want of a $6000 contest award

      • Oh wouldn’t $6000 be loverly?

      • yes, yes it would

  11. Poetry, blogging, writing — it’s all about being YOU. When you try to imitate someone else’s style, it never rings true. Nothing wrong with baby chuckles and pretty things, Lou Ann. We can always use more of that and you do that very well with much authenticity. (although that dark thing of yours was pretty darn good). :).

  12. I too have a difficult time reading poetry that is so deep and sometimes dark…I would suppose if I was feeling depressed I might read it but not when I’m in my ‘somewhat’ normal state of mind…Diane

    • I know,sometimes dark needs dark not to feel alone in pain–but it can bring you down if you are in a good mood

  13. Being true to yourself is always the most important I think, when it comes to writing or any other creative medium. You can definitely try imitating others but nothing feels as good as just being you. I’m like you in that I’m not a generally ‘dark’ person and if I’m feeling down, I don’t ever like sharing it. There’s nothing wrong with being positive and liking pretty things. I certainly like those things. :)

    • We just have to face it — we are not dark beings — positive and pretty things appeal to us more than dark and dank

  14. Happiness is making the words come out right to express your inner thoughts. You have a knack for seeing the brighter side of life. I say, enter the contest with all that joy. You are bound to win.

  15. [...] Echoes of Bliss (onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com) [...]


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