Maybe it’s the season. Fall always makes me a little melancholy and introspective as I look back at the summer that was and the season to come and try to make sense of it all.
Maybe it’s waking up early to the cool, crisp air and the sensation of reading a poem in the morning with a hot cup of tea in a bathrobe, while my exposed skin tingles from the breeze of the ceiling fan.
Maybe it’s the brevity. While the daylight hours around me grow shorter, casting a longer, darker shadow about me, I yearn for something that reflects this, something succinct that I can sink my teeth into.
Maybe it’s something else, something hidden deep within that I can’t pinpoint. Maybe it’s the search for this something.
Whatever the reason is, I tend to read more poetry in the Fall than any other time, and each season brings with it a new poet. I can always remember what year it was by which poet I was reading.
1996 — William Black
1998 — Walt Whitman
2002 — Dylan Thomas
2005 — Allen Ginsburg
2006 — Carl Sandburg
2007 — Emily Dickinson
This year, I’ve taken to Billy Collins, and it’s rather fitting, really.
I’ve always preferred my poets to be plainspoken, using the language of commonfolk, to express their ideas and thoughts. I prefer my art to be progressive, but not so much so that it can’t reach a decent-sized audience.
I’ve found the culmination of this preference in Billy Collins.
Take his name, for instance. It’s not William Collins or even Will. It’s Billy.
And what of his 2005 book, “The Trouble with Poetry?” How can a poet be pretentious with a title — and a poem of the same title that claims the trouble with poetry is that it inspires more poetry — like that?
Lately, this is the one I keep coming back to:
“There is the sudden silence of the crowd
above a motionless player on the field,
and the silence of the orchid.
The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.
The stillness of the cup and the water in it,
the silence of the moon
and the quiet of the day far from the roar of the sun.
The silence when I hold you to my chest,
the silence of the window above us,
and the silence when you rise and turn away.
And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,
a silence that had piled up all night
like snow falling in the darkness of the house —
the silence before I wrote a word
and the poorer silence now.”
This is often how I feel before and after writing. The moment just before contact, just before my fingers hit the keyboard or before my pen touches the paper, I feel a silence envelop me and it’s the most peaceful moment of all, that split second between earth and heaven between thought and action.
And it’s beautiful to me, surely, but it loses a bit of its beauty, a bit of its grace the moment it becomes concrete, the moment it becomes real. Because then it’s just a thing, a sentence, a phrase, a paragraph, a story, ready to be consumed, forgotten and thrown away.
If I could live in those moments just before writing, I would never leave.
That, to me, is heaven, and the trouble with writing. I must keep writing to return there, to never forget that silence.