Friday, November 21, 2014

Leaf Pressed, Moon Tipped

"So our job as writers is not to diddle around our whole lives in the dot but to take one big step out of it and sink into the big sky and write from there. Let everything run through us and grab as much as we can of it with a pen and paper. Let yourself live in something that is already rightfully yours—your own wild mind." ~Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind

Into this World
Let us die gracefully into this world
like a leaf pressed in stone
let us go quietly breathing our last breath
let the sun continue to revolve in its great golden dance
let us leave it be as it is
and not hold on
not even to the moon
as it will be tonight
and beckoning wildly in the sea [emphasis added]

Natalie Goldberg


Just the other day I was writing about Elinor Wylie's often anthologized poem, "Velvet Shoes" (see Fortnightly and Quotidian posts; and also Nets to Catch the Winds, 1921). It seems that I have known Wylie's elegant, seasonal poem forever, though I can't remember when or where I first encountered it. Most likely my long familiarity comes from its inclusion in one of my many Christmas anthologies. You can find it here, for example:

I'm also lucky enough to own a vintage copy of Wylie's fourth and last collection of poems, Angels and Earthly Creatures, published in 1929.

Front page inscription seen below:
Marie Hobson
Park Chambers


One of my favorites from Angels and Earthly Creatures is this brief lyric, tucked in amidst the sonnets and longer elegies:
Fair Annet's Song
One thing comes and another thing goes:
Frosts in November drive away the rose;
Like a blowing ember the wind-flower blows
And drives away the snows.

It is sad to remember and sorrowful to pray:
Let us laugh and be merry, who have seen today
The last of the cherry and the first of the may;
And neither one will stay.
Wylie's bittersweet comparison of November to May has been set to music a number of times, notably by composer Paul Carey in his four movement tribute to the seasons of the year, Into This World. [click to read his explanation].

Carey choses Wylie's poem, "Annet's Song" to symbolize spring (though equally appropriate for late autumn); Robert Louis Stevenson's "Tropic Rain" to capture summer's intensity; an adaptation of Rilke's "The Leaves are Falling" to evoke a gentle autumn; and to remind us of winter's finality -- as well as for the title of his choral arrangement -- the haunting lines of Natalie Goldberg's "Into this World" (above).

I seem to recall my son Ben taking a picture
of me photographing the sidewalk leaf in the rain:

New Year's Eve 2012 ~ Dallas

For more wintry snow poems
see my current FORTNIGHTLY post
~ "First Snow in Indiana"

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