Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Life Lines

Over at Poetry Thursday, Jim Brock has invited us to share lines of poetry that are particularly meaningful for us. In Jim's words:

lines, by a poet that stayed with you, that you could not let go for the life of you, and then in a paragraph (or two), describe a moment when these words arose in your life in which they brought you understanding, insight, solace, reconciliation, or comfort.

To me, reading this, I felt we were being asked to share not just favourite lines, but lines that whether literally or figuratively, saved our lives. And at first, I couldn't think of anything. I didn't feel that poetry had affected me that much. I've had a comfortable life, after all. I'm a fairly level sort of person. I can balance a cheque book, come up with a rational explanation for most things, and a practical approach to most problems. I was bullied somewhat in primary school, (being a bit nerdy), but I remember my family and my childhood as happy. I think of myself, I realised, as one of those egg-shaped childrens toys with the weighted base, that wobbles when pushed but never falls over.

I have always had enough to eat, a roof over my head, access to medical care when I needed it, books and education. I've been married to the same man for (gulp - is it really that long?) thirty five years. Our children still like us, as far as I can tell.

And then, if I do have difficult emotions to deal with, I don't turn to poetry for solace. When I was younger my approach to crisis was to sleep a lot. More recently, I find the most effective way of getting through is vigourous uphill walks.

Thinking about this, I realised that it's my lack of needing to be saved that poetry has saved me from. My ordinary, steady life. Poetry has taught me to look for the beauty and wonder in things. And the strength, and the power, and to listen to my emotions even when they talk in whispers, and go underground after an hour or so in the spotlight. Poetry reminds me to be human.

As for the lines that stick with me, I can't say why exactly. But here they are:

I married the way moths marry
I married hard

by Olena Kalytiak Davis, from a poem called "In Defense of Marriage"

(I found this poem on the wonderful Poetry Daily website, a few years back, but unfortunately as they only archive the poems for a year, it's not online any more. I believe it can be found in her book titled "And Her Soul out of Nothing".)

For more life lines click here


Anonymous said...

Those 2 lines are intriging-they really make me want to go find the poem. It's a lovely explantion leading in too. Poetry as a preventative measure, poetry as the thing that KEEPS us safe. Quite inspiring. I think I'll take a book of the stuff with me on the bus to work this morning!

Haven't been over to PT for a little while-will try and have a go at this too.


Catherine said...

Lydia, it's not so much that poetry is the thing that keeps me safe - more that it's the thing that reminds me not to be too safe.

Jim Brock said...


What a great couple of lines about full, unquestioning commitment, which is about the biggest risk of all (and folly, too, in some quarters--which makes it all the more risky).

Megan said...

Poetry has saved me many times, but mostly in the writing rather than the reading.

There are bits of a couple of poems that haunt me, but I have been searching for the anthology they came from since I was in college, and haven't found it yet. So all I have is scraps.

Hi - Michele sent me!

chicklegirl said...

I read this with great interest, as I also selected a poem mentioning moths for my life lines. Your lines have me wanting to read the whole poem!

And what great wisdom about the need to take risks, to not live too safely, whether it is in relationships, art, or whatever.

chicklegirl said...

Ah, I found it:

(Thank you, Google.) And I can see why you love it. The language, the images, are stunning. Thanks for sharing this, Catherine!

Crafty Green Poet said...

I have been in the same situation really, poetry has helped me to see the beauty in the world and that makes life much better. I agree with finn too, the writing of poetry is what sometimes saves me in the more dramatic sense. Not that my life has actually been that dramatic!

Kay Cooke said...

I love this and can identify very strongly with all of it.