assuming there is such a secret

Posted by on May 2, 2012

Overlooking the pool at D.O. © 2012 Julia Mason Wickes.

Overlooking the pool at D.O. © 2012 Julia Mason Wickes.

The Secret
by Denise Levertov
Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
poetry.
I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me
(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even
what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,
the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,
and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that
a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
lines
in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
for
assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.
* * *

I have been doing Poetry Wednesday on my blog now for a few years and have grown to love it. I first began doing it because my friend, the talented Molly Sabourin, invited me to participate. I had no idea when I started that it would become important to me for many reasons. The first, most simple reason it became important to me is that it provides just the right amount of imposed structure on this amorphous thing called blogging. It is ridiculous to call it an assignment in any sense of the word, as if there is someone who will either give me a failing grade or threaten to fire me if I fail to meet a deadline, but nevertheless, thinking of it as an assignment of sorts has helped me to stay (relatively) current and consistent with blogging when otherwise it is highly doubtful I would have bothered. And if only for my own sake, I am thankful to have this blog as a record of life, distinct from a private journal, to look back upon. Because of course I do keep a journal, but there is something about writing openly for a supposed public audience that frees my writing from the convoluted, cerebral twists and turns of my private journal, which can be tedious for me to go back and read when all I am wanting is to remember what was going on or what I was thinking and feeling at a particular juncture.

The other great thing about Poetry Wednesday is that it has kept me close to poetry in a way that I would not have otherwise been. When the circle of contributors to Poetry Wednesday on Kris Livovich’s blog was more active, I loved reading the poems that others would pick out each week. I liked the feeling it fostered: the feeling that a group of busy people were creating a separate and shared place for something as non-pragmatic and calming as poetry. Sometimes I didn’t get around to reading each post until Thursday or Friday, but when I finally sat down to do it, I felt as if I was entering an in-between place of a connection to the irreducible experience of being human.

The original group of Poetry Wednesday participants is not really active anymore, and that is okay. People move on and do different things. I stopped doing it for a long span of time as well. But after we finally got settled into this temporary existence here in D.C. and it became obvious that I needed some creative outlet or I would go a little crazy, my blog became the obvious choice again, and my reasoning was that if Poetry Wednesday had worked for me before, it would be the most likely outlet to work again. Or, as they say in the south: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

This is all an attempt to soften the abruptness when I announce semi-officially (there is nothing very official about blogging) that I’ve decided to host Poetry Wednesday here on my blog starting today.

There is another story going on here. For years now, my friend Amber Schley Iragui and I have been talking about doing something collaborative like an online journal. Amber and I had the experience of working together on a magazine when we both worked at St. Vladimir’s Seminary and produced their alumni magazine together. And if I say so myself, we did a pretty great job on that magazine, even if, in the end, it was just a news magazine of a small seminary, with a niche audience, and even if, in the end, it was unlikely to function in any enduring capacity, even as bathroom reading, for that same niche audience. But still, I took away from that experience the feeling that if our collaboration could be that seamless and satisfying in producing an alumni magazine, then how much more satisfying would it be to produce the kind of publication with contents that I deeply care about– literary and artistic– something ad-free, along the lines of The Sun, but of course different, because as nice as it is, the world probably cannot absorb and support another Sun Magazine.

Well, none of this has ever gotten any further than being a nice idea. The circumstances of life interfere and the resources are not available for something as established as all that. It is like dreaming of an oak tree when all you hold in your hand is an acorn. But of course, being a fan of agrarian models of sustainability and doing things on a human scale, as put forth by the likes of Wendell Berry, I can believe that not only is there no shame in the acorn model, but it is actually preferable to trying to erect a gigantic oak tree out of thin air.

Now that Amber is hosting Photo Friday each week and we are trying to get more people involved in that, I feel that maybe if I can do something similar by hosting Poetry Wednesday a reciprocity might develop, and some kind of energy might gather around it. If it does, then maybe something more official like an online journal could develop out of that. Or, it might not. Whichever way it goes, there is nothing to lose. I know that I like doing this, and I plan to stick around and keep doing it.

I am terrible at marketing, and only slightly better at recruiting. But here is my cautiously enthusiastic advertisement: I highly recommend Poetry Wednesday to anyone who feels an inclination to participate!!! I am going to start putting a link at the bottom of my posts so that others can link their blog to mine. The world needs more poetry. I make this pronouncement while sitting in a Starbucks in our nation’s capital, in Georgetown, a place where the daily rhythm of life might be the most antithetical, the least conducive, to that in-between, quiet, human place that poetry creates.

And because, as Denise Levertov says, it is very human to discover the secret of life and then keep forgetting it over and over again, and because the secret of life keeps hiding and making itself newly discoverable “until death finds us,” a weekly appointment with poetry is not a bad idea.

And lastly, if you still think that poetry is only for dreamy, impractical people, I’d like to point out that the U.S. Postal Service just issued a totally kick ass sheet of stamps with ten twentieth century poets, including the aforementioned Denise Levertov and one of my personal favorites, Elizabeth Bishop. What could be more practical than a postage stamp?

  1. Manuela
    May 2, 2012

    Could I use very limited words to participate?

  2. A M B E R
    May 2, 2012

    I love this poem because it captures the ways in which words hold different meanings for different people. I've often thought about this in context with Scripture, how each of its passages have been read so many times, copied down and memorized. Relatively obscure lines holding sudden revelations, whole lives changing course over a clause.

    That said, hurrah for Poetry Wednesday!

  3. Kate
    May 2, 2012

    I am definitely willing to contribute some of my energy in this direction (limited though it may be) if you can tolerate some terrible blogging for a spell.

  4. Julia
    May 2, 2012

    Kate: your blogging can't possibly be terrible. Even if you write in stream of consciousness with no editing, it will be great. I was really hoping you would join in (she said, trying not to sound overly eager)!!

    Amber: very true, and hurrah for Poetry Wednesday!

    And Manuela: What can I tell you? Of course!