Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Poetry Warms the Soul

Today in my AP Literature and Composition classes, I introduced poetry. We did a fun activity and then start by reading a easy Seamus Heaney poem. But. my students groaned when I told them we were introducing poetry. GROANED! Of course, I made them fix that; had some students cheer for poetry. I'm hoping that they just haven't had many good experiences with poetry, and hopefully we will fix that this year. Hopefully they will accept that poetry is good for them, just like green beans are good for them. They still might not cheers, but secretly they will know.

Today I wanted to blog about poetry since it was on my mind, but I had a hard time finding a recent poem that spoke to me. Nothing was really striking my fancy until I stopped by Poetry Magazine. I decided to try one of the featured poems, and wow!

And so, I present: Marine Snow, by Miriam Gamble--

          The memory of sun, it is what they subsist upon
          down where the jaws snap blindly
          at whatever passes, where drifter is a meaningless term

          and to hunt is to proffer teeth and tongue
          and ghost-lit lantern
          into a sea like liquid wind,
          without prior compass
          of the way the wind is blowing.

          Should they be gifted with a corpse
          whose half-spoilt flesh holds distillate
          eternal summers
          spent glittering in the euphotic zone,
          they will give gross thanks and, in their way, be holy.

          In the cartography of sea,
          they are kin not to dragons nor the Stella Maris
          but to your own bright band--

          yes, you there, eating your sunlight secondhand
          from a long-gone grocery display,
          drinking it from the guts of lazy lemons.

Holy cow! This poem is a beaut! First some definitions:

  • Marine Snow--"is a continuous shower of mostly organic detritus falling from the upper layers of the [ocean]. It is a significant means of exporting energy from the [top of the ocean, down to the bottom of the ocean]."
  • Euphotic Zone--again, a part of the ocean, the upper layers. Sticking with this whole upper ocean levels feeding the lower levels.
  • Stella Maris--north star, Polaris
There is so much we could analyze in this poem, but the sounds really stood out to me. The sounds in this poem hit the ear with such beauty. Let's just look at a couple phrases in closer detail.
  • "[...] proffer teeth and tongue / and ghost-lit lantern"--teeth and tongue is alliteration and I love me some alliteration. Also some alliteration with "ghost-lit lantern." But the word "proffer" gets me. Gorgeous sound in this line.
  • "[...] whose half-spoilt flesh holds distillate / eternal summers / spent glittering in the euphotic zone"--these lines sound so good. I love the bevy of "T" sounds going on in these lines. Makes a rat-tat-tat when you read it. A machine gun of "T's."
  • "sunlight secondhand"
  • "long-gone grocery display,"
  • "guts of lazy lemons."
I think you get the picture though, now here is the point--

This poem is about getting our sunlight through our food. That, in reality, we eat sunlight. Everything lives off of the sun, we need it to survive. This is a science poem. Fish living in the deepest depths of the ocean need sunlight, and humans do too. It is a poem about eating sunlight. That is beautiful. 

But who really cares what the poem is about. Does it really matter? Does it matter what the poem was about? Or if we connected to the topic as a reader? Maybe. In the end, this poem, this poet spoke to me. Her words, her ideas, her soul, jumped out of the page, across space and time, and told me something. Something about life, and being connected, and being human. I felt fed. I felt better about the world. I felt better about myself. If you can get that from poetry than it is a worthwhile endeavor to read it.

Eat those lazy lemons, and read your poetry!

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