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A Gathered Distance: Poems

A Gathered Distance: Poems

Mark Tredinnick | Birdfish Books | 9780995371842

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LIVING DISABLES us, sooner or later. This book records an instance. Among its other purposes--celebration, witness, seeing justice done, recasting life's exquisite spell, replenishment of language--lyric poetry, that deeper speaking, consoles like no other human accomplishment. Greg Orr has argued that all cultures in all times have evolved the lyric poem to help humans, us languaging animals, survive spiritual catastrophe. Lyric poems do this by transfiguring inchoate and unbearable emotion into habitable places, intimate architectures of speech, gardens of language; a poem gives to airy nothings 'a local habitation and a name.' Giving it a name and making it a place, a lyric poem can make of a grieving a hearth. A poem puts your pain and delight back among the 'family of things.' For a poem uses language connected to ecosystems of being and meaning and form and sense where one can feel whole, where one's sorrow has context, where one's solitude has company. And not merely social. For each of us is all of us in a poem. The first person is only interesting in a poem, Seamus Heaney wrote somewhere, as an instance. And instance of being. A poem may cry pain, it may plead forgiveness, it may be a keening, a rant, an elegy, a refusal to go gently, a prayer. But the particulars of its witness are where it starts, not where it stops; each episode or image stands in a poem as a metaphor for all such moments--of anguish, sorrow, regret, desire, despair, gratitude, delight. A poem helps you find the myth in the moment, and so (as writer or reader) endure it. When profound human emotion can recruit the lyric, the personal can become the human, the particular the archetypal. And a collapse of self can become a gathering of distances, a habitat of healing. It is my hope that a little of that goes on in A Gathered Distance. What poetry expresses is not one's self--or not merely. Poetry speaks all our selves. In that sense, though they start with me, in a life like mine, in a disabling caused by living, these poems are not about me. This is not a memoir. These poems are the sense that poetry could help one human make of a great sadness, 'that rust upon the soul,' as Samuel Johnson puts it, that came his way with the end of a marriage and the fracture of a family. His disabling included grief and guilt and bewilderment and all the rest of it. In many ways these poems saved (and possibly improved) this poet. But if that's all they achieve, they are not the poems he hoped to write. For mine is just one instance of being, and it is one long moment of Being--in its exquisite multiplicity, in its contradictions and chaos and divine comedy--whose lyric I hoped to catch here, and in catching it make some sense, somehow, of the senselessness that Being sometimes seems to be. -- Mark Tredinnick  

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