THOREAUING

July 29, 2020

 

The poet Mary Oliver is well-known for attaching herself to her subject, often the natural world, and staying tethered to it until her observations spilled out in fantastic and unpredictable verse. "The singsong poem is a dull poem," observed she. Oliver opposed predictable rhythms, and championed the awakenings that often arise in a more free verse. As someone who has studied both her poetry and her teachings on writing, my understanding is that Oliver was not in any way advocating for a calculated disruption to a work's rhythm, but rather a yielding to it as it presents itself in the complete consumption of a subject.
 

"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told, and it depends chiefly on the storyteller whether that is interesting or not."


In March of 1845 Henry David Thoreau went to the woods in an effort to live more “deliberately”. Back then he said this, “wherever men have lived there is a story to be told, and it depends chiefly on the storyteller whether that is interesting or not.” Thoreau, like Oliver was a master of the three dimensional life… of staying astonished. To him, experiencing things forward and back, inside and out, and over and under were as essential as breathing. As the record shows, his way of life resulted in few "dull poems".

Oliver and Thoreau's imprints are ever with me when I am out "stalking" my subjects. This particular one along the coast of Palm Beach, Florida is a longtime friend. For over two decades now, its poetry keeps calling me back. With my lenses, I've recorded this horizon, edged in a peach coral, endlessly. Despite that creative investment, for me, here there is some ongoing story to be told. THOREAUING is a verb I patched together some time ago. It best defines this practice of completely consuming a subject.... it keeps my barreling forward in check and reminds me to lock in and stay put and to not settle for "dull poems".


 

 

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