I want to talk about poetry. Remember poetry? Oh yes, the kind of writing that I supposedly do. Well, to let you in on a small secret, I haven’t been writing very much poetry of late. There was a vast and barren field where the seeds of poetry lay sleeping underneath the ragged brown stubble of old drafts and the heavy snows of lethargy.
But I am spending more time in the sun and reading poems and taking walks. I feel the quickening of words dividing like cells until they form phrases or whole golden lines. Lines of words I tell you! That may not seem like much, but lines form the well-ordered rows of stanzas and the plowed fields of entire poems.
Do all of my analogies and metaphors about writing return to nature because I was raised in rural Montana?
Today I discovered the books The Tomten and The Tomten and the Fox. Their illustrations woke my wonder of the world again. Is there a Tomten prowling through the barn on a winter night feeding my tomcat milk? When I wake up will I be able to count his tracks in the snow among the field mice and rabbits?
To me, the Tomten is a kind of poetic muse. He goes about unseen on silent feet. He whispers the shivering of spring and its green leaves into the ears. Tomten sees what is hidden in the dark because he travels forgotten tracks and by ways that remain obscure. Poetry does the same thing. Through words, metaphor, image and the very music of language a poem transports us into secret places.
I hope that poetry will come to me in the deepest hours of sleep and whisper to me like the Tomten says to the barn cat, “Of course you may stay with me, and of course I will give you milk.”