Earlier this year I was put to thinking about lines of poetry that meant a lot to me. This began when the poet Gerry Cambridge, who edits a fine, international literary journal in Scotland called The Dark Horse, asked me and several other poets to write brief essays on particular lines that had shaped us. So I wrote a short piece, published now in the current issue of The Dark Horse, about this line from Thomas Wyatt:
Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind
The line had an effect upon me during my adolescence when I was just starting to see how language could light you up and open the doors of the heart and mind. Of course, all poetry seeks to hold the wind, a thought that imparts beauty to this line. So I wrote my appreciation for The Dark Horse. But in doing so I realized it was impossible to zero in on just one line of poetry. I decided, therefore, to go back and select more lines from other poems that have, in one way or another, put me on the path.
… Mark here below
How tame these ashes are, how free from lust,
That thou mayst fit thy self against thy fall.
So I would have had him leave,
So I would have had her stand and grieve,
So he would have left
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,
As the mind deserts the body it has used.
I should find
Some way incomparably light and deft,
Some way we both should understand,
Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand.
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.
(W. B. Yeats)
Nights come bringing the snow, and the dead howl
Under headlands in their windy dwelling
Because the Adversary put too easy questions
On lonely roads.
He runs, he runs to the south, finical, awkward,
in a state of controlled panic, a student of Blake.
It pleases me to stand in silence here.
Out there in Jutland
In the old man-killing parishes
I will feel lost,
Unhappy and at home.
There are more, but that's for another time.