Sunday Selections

I’m hesitating calling this a new weekly series . . . but maybe it will be just that. I wanted a place to share some of my favorite quotations, excerpts, poems and words that invite personal reflection. I’ll be leaving my own thoughts in the comments section and I would love for you to do the same. Wishing you all a wonderful and restful Sunday. xoxo, Sheila

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Years ago I set three “rules” for myself. Every poem I write, I said, must have a genuine body, it must have sincere energy, and it must have a spiritual purpose. If a poem to my mind failed any one of these categories it was rebuked and redone, or discarded. Over the forty or so years during which writing poems has been my primary activity, I have added other admonitions and consents. I want every poem to “rest” in intensity. I want it to be rich with “pictures of the world.” I want it to carry threads from the perceptually felt world to the intellectual world.

I want each poem to indicate a life lived with intelligence, patience, passion and whimsy . . . I want the poem to ask something and, at its best moments, I want the question to remain unanswered. I want it to be clear that answering the question is the reader’s part in an implicit author-reader pact. Last but not least, I want the poem to have a pulse, a breathiness, some moment of earthly delight. – Mary Oliver

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Poetry is life distilled. – Gwendolyn Brooks

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6 thoughts on “Sunday Selections

  1. I was given the Oliver excerpt back in February, when I was deep in the middle of my doubt* in regard to homeschooling with Waldorf. For some reason, her words pierced through the fog and let in a clear ray of golden sunshine. How Oliver approached poetry was how I wanted to approach my work – which right now is homeschooling with Waldorf.

    This sentence was especially inspiring to me: “I want the poem [lesson] to ask something and, at its best moments, I want the question to remain unanswered. I want it to be clear that answering the question is the reader’s [student’s] part in an implicit author-reader [teacher-student] pact.” The idea of leaving things unanswered . . . questions that linger in the mind . . . I wanted this to be my goal.

    (*You can read more about my winter doubt here and here.)

  2. I really like how you overlaid the threshold questions on to your homeschooling. I wonder if those same thresholds should have to be met in all things we do. But I’d have to sit under a tree in the lotus position to find an answer to that question (;

    • That is what struck me. Poetry is her work – so I do think these questions can – and dare I say should?? – be applied to all of what we do. A high standard, for sure, but a worthy goal to work toward.

  3. Sheila,
    So this really struck me today. And I think I was meant to read this today, instead of two days ago when you posted it. I just finished reading “The Flame Throwers” by Rachel Kushner and the two things connect in a way I’m not sure I can articulate. the last words of the book are:

    “The answer is not coming.
    “I have to find an artbitrary point inside the spell of waiting, the open absence, and tear myself away.
    “Leave, with no answer. Move on to the next question.”

    Maybe it is all about the questions and looking for answers, not necessarily the final, definitive answers. Is there such a thing?

    So I’m going to try to find comfort today in the searching and knowing I won’t really find THE answer. But that will be answer enough…

    -The ‘Other’ Andrea

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