Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Hauge and Dickinson

On the note of poetry and Emily Dickinson in the previous post, I remembered this poem by Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge, which encapsulates both. It is called "Eg har tri dikt", which means "I have three poems".

Eg har tri dikt

Eg har tri dikt,
sa han.
Seg telja dikti.
Emily kasta dei
i ei kiste, eg
kan ikkje tru ho talde dei,
ho sprette berre ein tepakke
og skreiv eit nytt.
Det var rett. Eit godt dikt
skal lukta av te.
Eller rå mold og nykløyv ved.

I have three poems

I have three poems,
he said.
How about that, counting the poems.
Emily threw them
into a chest, I
cannot think she counted them,
she just slit open a packet of tea
and wrote a new one.
That was right. A good poem
should smell of tea.
Or of raw earth and newly split fire-wood.


In this short, simple poem smelling of earth and tea, there is a closeness to the matter, that of poetry, that I find moving and deeply satisfying. The casual mention of Emily Dickinson, using only her first name, creates an intimate feeling between these two poets, as different and divided by time as they might be. Like there is a fellowship only poets have access to, and that there everyone is on first name terms with each other (like a highly personalized version of intertextuality). A rather romantic notion, I clearly see, but still there is a feeling of the great diversity of poets being united by some common note. As I picture it, they stand underneath the same dome, low-ceilinged and vast at the same time.

You find a sort of poetics here. Poetry is being connected to the earth, to something homely and everyday-like. This I feel quite comfortable with. Again Hauge shows his close connection to simplicity. The language, the props, the normality of it all. Straightforwardness shining through in every stage.

Another interesting thing about this poem for me is how the tea and the raw, black earth seem to take on each others' characteristics - when Emily slits open the packet of tea, it smells like earth, and the earth towards the end smells like tea. This poem evokes these different scents in me which seem to seep out in a thick, golden brown liquid throughout my reading it. First the woody scent of an old chest, perhaps with hints of cherry (for some reason I imagine it must have been a cherry wood chest - the deep redbrown of it). Then the mentioned tea and earth, and then the fire-wood. All brown, promising rich and earthy scents.

I figure I like it when it feels like my toes are embedded in earth and grass when reading a poem. 

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The top of Emily's head

A citation of Emily Dickinson's that I read today went straight into my bones, or rather, made me feel like my bones are hollow and that in them the whispers and fluid starlight of poetry resides:

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry."

Sadly, I do not know where this is collected from, but it is probably from a letter, as we have no other prose from her hand as far as I know. The art of describing poetry - or should I call it the difficulty, the neverending trial of describing poetry, results in many poetic sayings which point directly to the unspeakable, unnamable thing that is poetry itself.

Just in these two sentences, her strange genius is apparent - or rather, her openness to some unknown and unending realm of reality. I don't know a better way of describing the access to poetry - both creating and reading - than to have the daring to look the unknown straight in the eye. There might always be an abyss ahead (probably there is), but there is no saying that abyss won't be filled with startling and altering newness, ready to greet us.

If I should add an entrance to poetry myself, it would in this moment sound like this:

When light and weight, stone and stellar space meet in me and contains a whole new field, I know that is poetry. When light gathers in me and wishes to burst every boundary, I know that is poetry.

...which is rather more ethereal than Emily's quite corporeal and solid way of describing these things poetic. But pointing, I hope.