Sunday, June 03, 2007

At Blackwater Pond

As enthralled as I am with the new baby, and want to post pictures of her every day, I must stop for a minute and tell you how enthralled I am with my Mother's Day gift. "At Blackwater Pond" - a CD of Mary Oliver reading her own poems. What a treat. I feast on it almost every day. MMMM, delicious. No calories, but loaded with nourishment for my heart and soul.

I loaded it onto my ipod and listen to it in bed at night, when I am relaxing out on the front porch with my afternoon cup of tea, sitting in my writing nook with my morning coffee, and in the car whilst sitting at the water's edge with a café mocha from Tim's.
Hearing Mary read her poems puts a whole new light on some of my old favourites.

Let me share a "sweet smackeral" with you just to give you a "taste" of what I have been feasting on. First some excepts from Performance Notes – an essay by Mary Oliver on the liner notes of the CD.

"Poetry is Prayer, it is passion and story and music, it is beauty, comfort, it is agitation, declaration, it is thanksgiving. Some poems are radiant and oracular, some are quiet and full of tenderness, like a letter written to a friend. Often poetry is the gate to a new life. Or, sometimes, the restoration of an old world gone. It brings new thoughts or the welcome remembrance of old ones. It offers simple pleasure, complicated joy, and even, at times, healing. Poetry does not work for everyone, but works for the many who open themselves to it. As the world changes from the long winter into spring, and everything takes on a freshness, and a spiritual meaning, just so poetry can quicken, enliven the interior world of the listener.

Much of the work of the poet is a mystery, but the last labor is clear; it is the deliverance of the poem. Often this happens through a manuscript or a book, but it can occur in a vocal way also. Has everyone at some time looked up the original meaning of performance? It means, says Webster, "to finish, to complete." The poem is meant to be given away, best of all by the spoken presentation of it; then the work is complete. Which makes performance sound, does it not, like part o the life-work of the poem, which I think it is. As if the poem itself had an independent life, or the endless possibility of its own life, in minds other than the poet's, which I think it has.

…Poetry is neither purely music nor purely speech, but contains parts of each…:

You will have to buy the CD to get the full impact of the "music" of these poems, but let me share a couple of "notes" with you.

At Blackwater Pond

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hand. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?

This next poem is an old favourite but when I listened to it for the first time the other day I thought of all my blogging buddies who are birders, and listen for those "fragile bells" every day.


Some goldfinches were having a melodious argument at the edge of a puddle. The birds wanted to bathe, or perhaps just dip their heads and look at themselves, and they were having trouble with who should be first, and so on. So they discussed it while I stood in the distance, listening. Perhaps in Tibet, in the old holy places, they also have such fragile bells. Or are these birds really just that, bells come to us – come to this road in America – let us bow our heads and remember how we used to do it, say a prayer.
Meanwhile the birds bathe and splash and have a good time. Then they fly off, their dark wings opening from their bright yellow bodies; their tiny feet, all washed, clasping the air.

OK, just one more, and then I must stop and step into the rest of my day.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Well, maybe one more, and then that is it! I think.

The Kookaburras

In every heart there is a coward and a procrastinator.
In every heart there is a god of flowers, just waiting
to come out of its cloud and lift its wings.
The kookaburras, kingfishers, pressed against the edge of
their cage, they asked me to open the door.
Years later I wake in the night and remember how I said to them,
no, and walked away.
They had the brown eyes of soft-hearted dogs.
They didn't want to do anything so extraordinary, only to fly
home to their river.
By now I suppose the great darkness has covered them.
As for myself, I am not yet a god of even the palest flowers.
Nothing else has changed either.
Someone tosses their white bones to the dung-heap.
The sun shines on the latch of their cage.
I lie in the dark, my heart pounding.

I really must stop now. Hope you enjoyed this taste of my new CD. If you are a Mary Oliver fan this CD is a must have.


Cathy said...

Sweet Cuppa -

I hope not to hurt fellow-blogger feelings ;0) but this had to be one of my favorite posts - ever.

Had you not posted any poems - her description of poetry alone was beautiful.

But to read her poems is to be lifted out of this sometimes rather difficult life into another realm.

I MUST get this CD.

Have a wonderful wonderful visit with your precious girls. I'll be checking in for entries during your trip.

(Oh I'll bet they'll be a couple tears shed when you say goodbye to little Smudge)

Cuppa said...

Thanks Cathy - glad you enjoyed the sweet morsels in this post. I loved Mary's essay on poetry too. Yes you MUST get this CD. It is a must have for any Mary Oliver fan.

I am so looking forward to visiting with the girls in Vancouver, but get a bit weak in the knees when I think about leaving Smudge for that long. Butterfly promised that she would send me pics and videos everyday. That should help - a bit!

Mary said...

Cuppa, after reading the sad news about Dale, your CD lifted me. I agree with Cathy.

Thanks so much for the wonderful post. Enjoy your holiday and I'll look forward to hearing from you!

Cuppa said...

Mary - I am so glad Mary Oliver's poetry touched your heart today. It touches mine in all the deep hurting places too.

This post has been sitting in draft mode for over a week and I just haven't had time to fine tune it and post it until this morning. Nothing happens by accident! Seems timely doesn't it? My heart aches for Laurie and Wolf. I hope MO's poetry comforts them in some way too.

"…for poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry."

KGMom said...

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets--she has such a gift for capturing the ordinary and making it eternal and extraordinary.

Cuppa said...

KGMom - She sure does. What a gift! I am lovin' listening to her on this new CD.