Auld Lang Syne

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Poetry = Happy

I've been deep into my Wilbur Project (not actual title of eventual result) and am now reading some prose pieces. I recently came upon the "poetry = happy" piece ["Poetry and Happiness, "Prose Pieces, 1953-1976, Wilbur, p. 119] on the day of the recent election. In fact, this writing probably saved me from a state of total apoplexy that day. I freely admit that I have been over the top in terms of watching TV and reading political articles and posts. I have invested so much of myself as to have temporarily gone "off the cliff" in terms of my own writing. The writing I had been doing prior to election day was iffy at best. Some major editing is in order I am sure.

R-E-L-A-X  was what I told myself, but I failed to follow my own good advice. Simply put: it [election] seemed to be too darned important in the long term to relax and let things "go to hell in a hand cart." I saw arguments among friends, grumpy and disgruntled candidates and supporters, and even saw some members of my church getting off the message of love and acceptance into a rigid stance on marriage equality, a judgmental and ignorant stance against LBGT folks who see marriage, CIVIL marriage, as a civil rights  issue. I saw a trend toward voting against "sane" self-interest in health care and social issues. It worried me.

But there was Richard Wilbur ready to reassure me. There he was in his own voice letting me know that my refuge is, and always can be, poetry. Poetry equals happy. It equals the kind of happy that knows no political boundaries or fences. It equals the kind of happy that sees color in nature and not in people. It equals the kind of happy that lets us sleep soundly, without fear. It is a living, breathing dictionary of words, available for all without judgment. There for the using. There to illuminate even the darkest moments.

On Election Day, as I was working the polling place along side Republican and Independent colleagues, I noticed a calm happiness in these volunteers while serving our voters by smiling at them when handing them their ballots. I reminded the high schoolers who came to help that it is good to thank each voter for voting. These students jumped right in and did this. I saw a sense of poetry in how they did that, with happy smiles. It made a visible difference in our voters. I saw a sense of poetry in the voters too, from the man who told me his wife had died a week earlier and "really wanted to vote in this election" to the man smelling to the high seas of fish guts, to the young poll worker whose 18th birthday it was and who was waiting for her mother to come so she could be there for her daughter's first ever vote. It was pure poetry to see the patient lines of people, breathing in and out and eager to make their voices known. It was pure poetry that, finally, in my head words were beginning to come forward to be counted. I was becoming a poem as I sat and watched and helped.

Late on Election Day, after I returned to the polling place for the hand-counting of ballots kicked out by the machine, I saw poetry and rhythm in how that counting process was done, in teams of GOP, DEM, and INDEPENDENTS making sure each vote was scrutinized for voter intent so it would count. As ballots moved through fingers and passed from one team member to another, I heard a rustle of democracy that is a purely poetic sound. This sift of ballots and rub of pencils checking lists was musical, poetical, and magical.

I went home from the polling place at midnight, having given myself the day to participate in living poetry. I was happy (not just because of the results of the election) because I had discovered a poetry OFF the page that equates with a national rhythm, something we can hear breathing like the wind if we stop long enough to be observant, to pay attention.

Richard Wilbur reminds me (us) of what Robert Frost once said "the earth's the right place for love." I say poetry on and off the page is not just equal to happy therefore, it is more than up to the task of human love. It is earth and spirit and person, and all of this is the gestalt of "happy."