Naming Everything

April 9, 2014

National Poetry Month.9

Tulip

Tulip

“The poet’s job is to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, in such a beautiful way that people cannot live without it; to put into words those feelings we have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name.  The poet’s job is to find a name for everything; to be a fearless finder of the names of things; to be an advocate for the beauty of language, very serious stuff, art; it’s not just decoration.  The other job the poet has is to console in the face of the inevitable disintegration of loss and death, all of the tough things we have to face as humans.  We have the consolation of beauty, of one soul extending to another soul and saying, ‘I’ve been there too.'”
— Jane Kenyon, “An Interview with David Bradt,” The Plum Review, 1996

Wordless

April 8, 2014

National Poetry Month.8

The world articulated in sunlight, leaves and shadows

The world articulated in sunlight, leaves and shadows

Words
by Dana Gioia

The world does not need words.  It articulates itself
in sunlight, leaves, and shadows.  The stones on the path
are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted.
The fluent leaves speak only the dialect of pure being.
The kiss is still fully itself though no words were spoken.

And one word transforms it into something less or other —
illicit, chaste, perfunctory, conjugal, covert.
Even calling it a kiss betrays the fluster of hands
glancing the skin or gripping a shoulder, the slow
arching of neck or knee, the silent touching of tongues.

Yet the stones remain less real to those who cannot
name them, or read the mute syllables graven in silica.
To see a red stone is less than seeing it as jasper —
metamorphic quartz, cousin to the flint the Kiowa
carved as arrowheads.  To name is to know and remember.

The sunlight needs no praise piercing the rainclouds,
painting the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving
each lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered it.
The daylight needs no praise, and so we praise it always —
greater than ourselves and all the airy words we summon.

The world might not need words, but I believe that humans do.  Words connect us.

“To name is to know.”  I don’t know the name of the tree whose leaves I photographed for today’s post.  Am I seeing it less because I cannot identify the tree?