Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Deep Heart's Core

It’s no secret that I love novels, but there’s a part of my heart (the part that flutters) specifically devoted to poetry. It’s an odd relationship we share, shy and cat-like. I don’t have the same assurance around poems, as I have no talent for writing verse. The knack utterly escapes me. I’ve tried my hand at a few, rapping my knuckles on a glass bell full of butterflies, though they refuse to let me in. Still, I can hold out my hand to other poems, the ones written by those who can commune with them, and see if they come to sit with me for a while.

There’s something so visceral about a great poem. It’s a feeling they leave after I’m done reading, a charge hanging in the air that settles onto the skin and seeps in slowly. They have a voice, a breath, a heartbeat. Some are serious, some silly. They can change my mood as quickly as a song; they can deepen it with new dimensions. At the end, I find I’m braver or more daring. I’m calmer, freer, easier. More thankful, more joyful. Some poems have the ability to elicit different reactions every time I read them. Others freeze my feelings in time, drawing forth the same emotion that I had the first time I finished.

Tonight, I’m a little sleepy and a little escapist. This is the poem for that:

The Lake Isle of Innisfree
by William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

(It’s strange but interesting to hear someone speak a poem counter to the “natural” rhythm, which is why you should go and listen to Yeats himself read this one out loud. I sometimes play that recording as I’m falling asleep.)

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