I grew up for a time overlooking a dock, and would watch for hours the rainbow-coloured freight stacked like Lego below. That was back in the day when logistics and urban planning had not yet caught up to market growth. And when I think of some of those scenes, I can imagine what Zolla writes: idyllic verse failed to address the shock of modernity. "Pasternak, who in his youthful work sought to absorb the trauma of the industrial city ... freed himself from it to return to tradition, after having experienced ... that today he who wishes to talk like St. Francis with the birds must go down into the watermains and sewers".
Are there not poetic voices that can restore some sense of order to the mind? For some of us, this still requires pastoral scenes - for so many reasons, including the didactic element of basic symbolism. Nature; silence; cultivation of the land, absorbing the uncertainties of the weather: such important life principles are so clearly demonstrated through the farmer, the herdsman. I often tell my students about the Chinese landscape painting: how the larger landscape is made human-sized in those places of minute detail, macro and microcosm, and most of all, movement. Where are we in the bigger picture?
Some of us cannot bear to renew the basics after we have mastered them, thinking they are now below us. As if, once we reach a plateau, we kick down the ladder we climbed to get there, to stop anyone else from joining us. But I should know better: when I trained a martial art, the maestranda would often call on us to leave class - and miss learning the new moves, in order to teach new-comers the basic step. In this way, we were actually renewing our own strength in that basic step - which is the base for all the other fancy moves. A weak basic step means getting beat, fast.
The showing off is in all that is new; one seeks new forms that have been less worked over - which means that one appears to be making a contribution, when one is really leaving a mess for history to sort through.
The world needs more poets who absorb the great voices of the past, and master them, before coming to their own, in the present. It is a beautiful thing to have the wish to write poetry, but it requires careful cultivation if it is to grow properly. It is also a fact that sometimes, even after years of work, the poems need even more work, even when we think they are done. But on the other hand, when one sees on the page that one has crystallized a feeling, a moment, and clarified the air around our often confused life, that is a reward that is worth more than any monetary sum or worldly laurels.
The process of writing poetry - whether on the page or in accomplishing that level of concentrated clarity and extracted beauty - requires time to play a part. Time and tides. Waiting.
Element. Magazine in background: an old Marie Claire Maison.