Poetry Corner

by Arthur Mampel

I suspect the reason the Romantic Poets (Shelly, Byron, Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Blake, Burns, etc.) are high on my list of literary favorites is their strong association with nature. I find there is healing when nature is present: – when I am walking on a mountain path or in the woods or by the water – there is healing and there is Joy, – that unmerited inward grace that falls over you when songbirds, or the nearby pond with its night noises – are the only sounds you hear. I’ve finished a book about Robert Louis Stevenson and his love affair with Fanny Osborne Stevenson, Under The Wide and Starry Sky, by Nancy Horan. Stevenson loved all five feet of Fanny’s strong, independent, opinionated and cheerful self. Fanny was never more alive than in her garden. There she found joy and poetry. She wrote,

When I plant a seed or a root, I plant a bit of my heart with it and do not feel that I have finished when I have had my exercise and amusement. But I do feel not so far removed from God when the tender leaves put forth and I know that in a manner I am a creator. My heart melts over a bed of young peas, and a blossom on my rose tree is like a poem written by my son.

Poetry demands that we do not pass over the delights of small, insignificant particulars. Poetry is a joy because it elevates the unseen life about us with the radical language of surprise! Inside something excites our soul when reading a line from Wordsworth or Yeats. It brings a joyful sense of wonder and heart’s ease when words are living and magical. Thomas Moore’s poem, Oh, Blame Not The Bard, argues this defense for poetry:

Oh, blame not the Bard, if he fly to the bowers,
where Pleasure lies, carelessly smiling at Fame;
He was born for much more, and in happier hours
His soul may have burn’d with a holier flame.

When we first arrived in Seattle in 1978, we were repeatedly asked a curious question: “Wasn’t the Mountain wonderful last week?” Or “Have you seen the Mountain yet?” What did they mean? There were mountains all around us. And then we were on Washington Avenue heading south. There it was in all of its masterful splendor: Mount Rainier! It was no longer a phantom mountain. It was before us in all of its overpowering presence. About that strange oddity in time I penned my impression of that miracle moment.

Mount Rainier

Mountain of broad consequence,
companion of Giants: You rise
white and sudden, a sweeping,
scenic summary of unrewarded
music.
See how you occupy the southern
sky, lay to shame lesser distractions.
Your wild address disturbs the calm
response we make to miraculous
life.
How small the counties you look
down upon, so squarely patterned
end to end and smartly parted
where they meet. And how your
patient
wide-eyed stare translates the near
perfection of that feat, so boldly there and
rightly held by eyes and stuttered words
to say what glimpses only pause to
praise.

Arthur Mampel in Seattle and is Pietisten's poet laureate.

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