The Poet’s Letter, after Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
One of the highlights of a busy week was our Poetry & Meditation Group on Wednesday night. There was homemade banana bread and a lively discussion about the Presidential election framed by Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes.
There were antique Christmas lights and maps and readings of two poems each. There were gifts of pocket journals and stories from a woman who had just returned from a trip to India and Nepal.
Then it happened, that little surprise. Once again there was a return letter in the mail from one of the poets to whom we had sent a thank you card.
This time it was Minnesota poet, Robert Bly. Now in his eighties, Robert Bly was named Minnesota’s first poet laureate in February of 2008. The fact that he is a hometown favorite who has authored more than 30 books of poetry made it all the more sweet. Teri asked in the thank you card about a poem the group had listened to, but was unable to locate in any of his books.
Here’s what he wrote, tapped out on the keys of a classic typewriter:
October 21st, 2008
Dear Teri Blair,
Thank you for the sweet note you wrote signed by so many other people. It’s very touching that these poems were sweet to you. The poem you mentioned called “The Two Rivers” goes this way:
Inside us there is a river born in the
That longs to give itself to the Gulf
And there is another river–more like
That carries earth, and earth joys, and
I’m sending you a new CD you might like.
With warm wishes
The CD was a translation of the mystic poet and philosopher, Kabir (1398 – 1518), arranged by Robert Bly, in his own voice, and accompanied by music. I felt so much gratitude that the poet took the time to write back.
At the end of the night, in low-light conditions, I shot these few photographs. They are dark and tinted from the reddish-yellow glow of a string of giant Christmas bulbs. Teri shared a story about how she inherited the lights found hidden on top of a rainwater cistern in the basement of a Minnesota farmhouse that has been in her family for generations. I like the graininess and hue; it captures the warmth of the evening.
We become more grateful as each month goes on. Once again, thank you to the poets, and for the poems and groups that keep them alive. I feel thankful to have this place in which to share the poets’ letters.
It’s getting late. I’ll end the post with a Robert Bly poem from the American Life In Poetry series with Ted Kooser (another poet who was gracious enough to write back). May we all be blessed with such humility and grace.
American Life in Poetry: Column 165
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
In “The Moose,” a poem much too long to print here, the late Elizabeth Bishop was able to show a community being created from a group of strangers on a bus who come in contact with a moose on the highway. They watch it together and become one. Here Robert Bly of Minnesota assembles a similar community, around an eclipse. Notice how the experience happens to “we,” the group, not just to “me,” the poet.
Seeing the Eclipse in Maine
It started about noon. On top of Mount Batte,
We were all exclaiming. Someone had a cardboard
And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun
Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover.
It was hard to believe. The high school teacher
We’d met called it a pinhole camera,
People in the Renaissance loved to do that.
And when the moon had passed partly through
We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree,
Dozens of crescents–made the same way–
Thousands! Even our straw hats produced
A few as we moved them over the bare granite.
We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine
Told a joke. Suns were everywhere–at our feet.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem (c) 1997 by Robert Bly, whose most recent book of poetry is “My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy,” Harper Perennial, 2006.
Poem reprinted from “Music, Pictures, and Stories,” Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 2002, by permission of the writer. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.
The Essence Of Poetry Group, Letter From Robert Bly, Hand To Hand, after Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
-posted on red Ravine, Friday, November 7th, 2008, with gratitude to Teri, the members of our poetry group, and all other writers and artists groups out there keeping our dreams alive