Monday, May 24, 2010

My Inspiration

My great-aunt May has always been one of my favorite poets. She met with presidents, rubbed elbows with celebrities and was friends with Robert Frost. She was the free spirited black sheep of the family that everyone loved but no one understood. May lived for writing, she felt it was the only way that she could truly express herself. Her poems are filled with relish for nature and her knowing symphony with wild creatures. May rejected religion in place of a knowledgeable awareness of the world that she perceived through science and logic. Her descriptive power and her ability to make us see objects sharply and in new ways made her a poet unlike all the rest.

May was obsessed with cognitive abilities, physics, and frequently wrote of atoms, swarming particles and the cosmos. She believed that nothing was independent and nothing could possibly know itself. She said that the universe and reality could only be known through an interplay or dialogue between the perceiver and the world.

About the poetic experience May wrote, " I see it based in a craving to get through the curtains of things as they appear, to things as they are, and then into a larger, wilder space of things as they are becoming". This sentence and the following poem represent not only the drama and passion that is May Swenson's poetry, but mine as well.

Not able to be honest in person
I wish to be honest in poetry.
Speaking to you, eye to eye, I lie
because I cannot bear
to be conspicuous with the truth.
Saying it, all of it, would be
taking off my cloths.
I would forfeit my most precious properties:
distance, secrecy, privacy.
I would be exposed. And I would be
possessed. It would be an entire
surrender to you, eye to eye.
You would examine me too closely.
You would handle me.
All your eyes would swarm me.
Whether you are one or two or many
it is the same. Really, I feel as if
one pair of eyes were a whole hive.
So I lie, eye to eye
by leaving the core of things unvoiced
or else by offering a dummy
in place of myself.

One must be honest somewhere. I wish
to be honest in poetry.
With the written word.
Where I can say and cross out
and say over and say around
and say on top of and say in between
and say in symbol, in riddle,
in double meaning, under masks
of any feature, in the skins
of every creature.
And in my own skin, naked.
I am glad, indeed I dearly crave
to become naked in poetry, to force the truth
through the poem
which, when it is made, if real,
not a dummy, tells me
and then you
my whole self,
the truth.

A poem by May Swenson


Loraine said...

I love it! I can definitely relate to her perspective.

errin julkunen-pedersen said...

i love LOVE may swenson. caldiero introduced me years ago. kind of envious that you're related...

Brittany said...

Love it, totally relate to it (in fact I've written something like this before), and I need more! I've never heard of her until now. Wow, thanks Crystal!