Some days the poetry goes fine, some days not so fine, but one recent day was a gold mine, thanks entirely to the internet. Though there are times I just turn off the wireless rather than be tempted to google every last bit of potentially relevant detail for a line, I am so glad I kept it running. I felt like I’d been out on a fabulous shopping trip, where the end result wasn’t expensive clothes that may or may not settle well into the wardrobe, but words. Free, new, potentially ever-so-useful words.
I had one piece of inspiration, based on my favorite hobby. (I've found over the years that hobbies can make for very, very useful poem fodder.) I'd found a quote I’d gleaned over the weekend from a magazine, Knitting Traditions, about how young Latvian women filled their hope chests with hundreds of mittens, to give as gifts to their in-laws and to the groom’s family’s hearth, livestock, well, bushes, orchards, and yes, beehives.
While searching for a list of steps needed to create yarn from fleece, I ran across the Fermented Suint Method of cleaning wool fresh off the sheep (soak it in rainwater for two weeks, rinse and repeat.) Suint, it turns out, is the “dried perspiration of sheep deposited in the wool and rich in potassium salts.” Look for it in an upcoming poem. I also found out what plants Latvians used to dye their fiber with, and the meanings of the motifs found in their knitted mittens. All without needing to put on street clothes to find a library.
I dipped in to Facebook as a reward for my work, since I have no watercooler and no coworkers besides my dog. Sometimes Facebook is a greedy time sink, other times it displays poetic gems, links to poetry fodder, or even to found poems waiting to be read and line-breaked. A garbologist friend had posted a piece about a scientific study of the trash accumulating at the bottom of undersea canyons in the Pacific, and the photos from it were poignant, including a rockfish nesting in a discarded sneaker, and a “ghost crab pot” and other fishing implements that continue to trap and kill fish long after human hands drop them.
I learned and learned. There is such a thing as “an emplaced whale-fall experiment,” wherein a whale carcass is buried at sea in a deep canyon, so scientists can observe what happens. What happens? 58 items of trash were observed nearby, during nine visits by the Remotely Operated Vehicles of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Near a natural whale-fall, at 2,893 meters, a funeral party of 29 objects, including plastic bags, plastic buckets, tools, and a 55-gallon drum, had gathered. I tried to fit that into my brain.
There is a word – infaunal – for deep sea creatures living in the soft sea bottom. And a word for the measurement of water depth: bathymetry. (The bathymetry of love, let me count the deeps.)
There was a picture of a white plastic lawn chair, the kind you’ve seen everywhere, resting at 10,500 feet below the surface. Ponder that for three hours straight, I dare you.
There is a word for “living near, deposited on, or sinking to the bottom of the sea” (demersal) and for “the area on top of the sea floor (epibenthic) and for “the line drawn to join the lowest points along the entire length of a stream bed or valley in its downward slope, defining its deepest channel,” and that would be thalweg. There are people who use these terms in their daily work.
Each one of these words carries the seed of a poem, if you dandle it in your hands long enough. As do many of the concepts in the study, most particularly the idea of “frequent mass wasting events,” a phrase that alas was not hyperlinked, but dark and ponderable nonetheless.
Maybe this is what it feels like to be a painter finding a giant case of fresh oil paints for $5 at a garage sale. A cornucopia of free material, poem-fodder, presented to a thirsty researcher.
I am grateful to the internet for providing this wealth of words, this to-do list for the rest of the poetry days ahead. And if nothing else, they will come in handy for games of online Scrabble.