I was almost 30 years old before I came to poetry, before I discovered what a poem really was and could do. When I read Keats’s great odes for the first time, it was an experience of written morphine, of timeless vision. Beauty shanghaied me and messed with my consciousness.
Poetry is so various. Over the years, I’ve found myself drawn to only those poems that are genuinely aesthetic creations. Is this selective attraction purely a matter of personal taste? That’s very likely, though it seems that posterity is less kind, in general, to non-aesthetic creations.
A poem becomes dear to me when it manifests subtle imagery, powerful coherence, artistic attitude. In other words, poems written with a rare kind of being-in-the-word.
Experimental poems, political poems, and neurotic-confession poems — no. I’m too much the curmudgeonly aesthete now for that kind of stuff. For me, the ideal of beauty is synonymous with the spirit of the word “poem.”
Beauty can, of course, take many forms. It can emerge hesitantly from a poem, almost as a grudging synthesis of ruin and hope, as a hypnotic play of shadows teeming in melancholy. Sometimes, beauty happens in a poem because the poet requires a refreshment from the drudgery of quotidian hours. She will compose an interlude as if written music. She will enter trance-like into that interlude of imagination and mystery.
For several years now, I’ve found myself returning to a poem by Constance Stadler. I return to this poem’s “Asian” elegance, its Poundian eloquence because I sometimes require a stately analgesic. The experience of austere written beauty is a special kind of painkiller.
A poem doesn’t necessarily have to say something profound about the world to be an astonishing thing. A poem can sometimes simply be profound.
Join me, if you wish, in a walk through this vision made of flawless cadence, marvelous imagery, and aesthetic mood. Near the end, the poet herself comes into thoughtful view. We can join her there, as if her silent, transparent comrades.
To me, this poem is so beautiful.
I dream, now…
In the forest of blue heron
On the whitest of white nights
The moon clouds pass
As laden caravanserai.
Cedar shadow calligraphy
Communicates what no human can
Cygnets sleep in sepia wash
In fearless surrender.
Darkness and I stroll among these
gardens within myself.
Sip wine, exchange no thoughts.
Copyright © 2009 — Constance Stadler
Posted by Tim Buck