I’ve always thought of poetry as a kind of foreign language. It has its own logic and is accessible only through repeated exposure. You think you don’t get it, and then, one day, you find yourself thinking thoughts you simply cannot express in your first language.
I stumbled across two poems referencing nuns yesterday. Two nun poems in one day! One is cold and frozen, and I found her in a tweet from ModPo that lead me to this page. The other was Emily Dickinson (722). I found it in Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson praising the mountains themselves as the Madonnas, the abbess of all who worship the mountains.
Sweet Mountains — Ye tell Me no lie —
Never deny Me — Never fly —
Those same unvarying Eyes
Turn on Me — when I fail — or feign,
Or take the Royal names in vain —
Their far — slow — Violet Gaze —
My Strong Madonnas — Cherish still —
The Wayward Nun — beneath the Hill —
Whose service — is to You —
Her latest Worship — When the Day
Fades from the Firmament away —
To lift Her Brows on You —
I’ve long put off reading Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson. It seems to have uneven critiques and it is very short – I didn’t want to plunk down money for a short book (sorry, I don’t generally love short books) that seemed to have a 50/50 chance of offering me something. I wasn’t convinced I could love Emily Dickinson any more, but I hadn’t considered loving Emily Dickinson differently.
Wrong. The book itself a journey. If you love poetry and love how it takes your mind to both tiny and tremendous places that were always within your grasp, and yet you had not yet visited…you’ll like Susan Howe’s book.
Today’s drawing was pretty much an accident. It is done on my sketch pad and started out as thumbnails for Probably In Love, practice pieces that were meant for the dust bin. Then, one thing lead to another and I found myself doodling on the sketches while ruminating on Susan Howe’s words and on Emily Dickinson’s words, and the colored pencils were on my desk, and today’s post happened.
I started reading My Emily Dickinson by Susan Howe. At location 497 in my Kindle edition I fell in love with
“The vital distinction between concealment and revelation is the essence of her work.”
It’s got me thinking about artists and heroes and how much we see but don’t know, and know but don’t see as we go through our days.
In the novel Les Miserables, Victor Hugo has a way of making the common person a hero in a quiet way that most would not recognize in their daily comings and goings. Monsieur Madeleine is a quiet hero.