SharingPoets@StPauls - December 2021 Discussion Starter

This month's full discussion starter is featured below; Make sure to send your name and email to Fr. Tom Holahan, CSP at tholahan@paulist.org to be included in the discussion group if you haven't already done so!

Walden Pond is a wonderful starting point for thinking about the coming year. The place itself is not far from the town of Concord, just as it was when Thoreau wrote from a cabin at the pond’s shore. He made his experiment in simplification there so that we could do the same. The clearing out of things attached to us, physically or mentally, is what freshens the soul. Thoreau’s focus on the tiny, whether it be his exact personal expenditures or a lark on a branch is curiously linked to a greater, unspoken idea – that reducing distraction reveals deeper needs. Poetry often performs this trick: the sharp eye of the poet notices some detail, some small animal. The poet may spend time praising such a thing and then, suddenly, we are off to a mystery or to a thought that propels us to a vast idea. This is the travel of both Thoreau and the poet! I’d like to share a poem by Robert Bly, who died last month at the age of 94. His influential book, “Iron John,” which pioneered the men’s movement of the 1990’s, often overshadows he work as a poet. Bly had a wonderful talent for linking the small with the great: A DREAM ON THE NIGHT OF FIRST SNOW I woke from a first-day-of-snow dream. I dreamt I met a girl in an attic, who talked of operas, intensely. Snow has bent the poplar over nearly to the ground, new snowfall widens the plowing. Outside maple leaves floated on rainwater, yellow, matted, luminous. I found a salamander! and held him. When I put him down again, he strode over a log with such confidence, like a chessmaster, the front leg first, then the hind leg, he rose up like a tractor climbing over a hump in the field and disappeared toward winter, a caravan going deeper into mountains, dogs pulling travois, feather fluttering on the lances of the arrogant men. Bly’s poem is about a dream, but one that is filled with sparkling details. And it seems that the very specificity veers toward something ominous and even alien to the snow world he creates. In the beginning he meets a girl in the attic who speaks about an opera, at the end feathers flutter from the lances of arrogant men. Between these two occurrences are ecstatic observations of the snow world. Wishing to further explore Thoreau? “Now Comes Good Sailing” provides 22 essays on the prescient diarist. I have only begun to explore the possibilities of e-publishing. Recently a small Catholic press in the Philippines asked me for some poetry. Here is the link to the complete anthology: https://www.a-given-grace-christian-anthology.com/ My poetry is here: https://www.a-given-grace-christian-anthology.com/thomas-holahan-dennis-yeo May this time during which we pray for light and peace and wisdom be a fruitful time for you and your poetry!

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