I sit on my brother’s porch, breathing in the honeysuckle’s incense (Lonicera sempervirens), trying to identify that first step, that first choosing, when I knew I would write. I cannot remember a time when there was not a passion for cadence and knowing and naming.
I come from a family that read hungrily and constantly; there was music—banjo to clarinet to piano—and hikes beside copper-colored ponds, beneath the huff and shrug of spruce at places like Peaks of Otter, reciting the names of deciduous trees. In between, stillness, time to reflect. And within that, Walter Farley’s novels and Webster’s Dictionary, the 1970 edition, I Capture the Castle and World Book Encyclopedia, which opened up the universe and made me hungry to understand why a Tennessee Walking Horse was what it was. But I cannot tease it apart, say, here I begin, here I turn my face toward a different tree line, moving from reader and listener to writer. It doesn’t begin. It doesn’t end.
I had a flute teacher once who stood me on a wooden floor and told me to feel the planed boards under my feet and to think of oak roots, to hold a middle G for as long as I could sustain the largeness of the tree, root to branch, with my breath and mind. We did this over and over again. That note will always sound like damp earth and acorn meat to me, and smell like tarnished silver. Another teacher argued passionately about whether hot chocolate had any part of texture that could be called grainy. Each time I try another variety of cocoa, I am tempted to dip into the dregs to retest the theory. I know these moments shaped my work because I recollect them vividly.
It’s all of a piece: the amalgam of sugar and milk and chocolate, the oak-root note. I want to follow something deeper in.
The beach down the hill is composed of pea- to pumpkin-sized rocks and gritty sand. That sand is a myriad of shapes, hexahedrons, spikey stars, honeycombs, colors ranging from saffron to blush to azure. I cannot recall a time when such things did not fascinate me, and I don’t know exactly when that fascination moved onto the page. I pull up a chair and grab a book on geology. This is also a pivotal moment.
I keep turning, the road branching out behind and in front of me. I want to know everything and I want time to examine the architecture of a checkered mallow. Where else can such desires co-exist so exquisitely, where else is permission given for such fascination with simply everything, but poetry?
Photo by Maccio Capatonda. Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Anne M. Doe Overstreet, author of Delicate Machinery Suspended: Poems
Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99— Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In April we’re exploring the theme Candy.
- Poetry Classroom: Sour Plums - January 30, 2013
- Poetry Classroom: Immolation - January 21, 2013
- Poetry Classroom: Shade Half Drawn - January 14, 2013
L.L. Barkat says
This is just so beautiful Anne.
*Naming* feels to me like a form of love (which is why, when names are mis-used I suppose we feel so violated).
Maureen Doallas says
Beautifully written, Anne. Your description of the beach shows what a remarkable observer you are, and why you’re a poet.
Simply Darlene says
reminds me of
because many fail
and those poor poetical
they flail about with
and red “non-approval”
good thing that
(I dunno where that came from, it just did. Maybe it’s our 2nd day of sunshine and a weekend with no snow. And maybe I want to stamp someone across the forehead who once told me “no.” Either way, thanks for this. And I’ll try not to feel a poetical fool in the midst of such beauty. Love that feline image too, even though I don’t fancy cats.)
Charity Singleton says
The fascination of simply everything is why I write, too. There’s nothing outside the purview of the poet. Your journey makes for beautiful verse all it’s own.
Matthew Kreider says
Once a child pulls open a silver retractable tube telescope, the scientist in her has no choice but to search for names. And a notebook for poems. What a beautiful lens, Anne.
Will Willingham says
“I want to know everything and I want time to examine…”
This just makes me want to examine even more.
Tania Runyan says
Anne, you are a beautiful poet, and, apparently, a beautiful prose writer as well. This piece really resonated with me. I have played violin my whole life, and without a doubt that practice has informed the rhythm of my work. Once a violin teacher had me play Images on the violin. “Play the smell of bread baking. Open string, no vibrato. Just the smell of bread from your bow.” Lovely how it all works together!
Anne Overstreet says
Tania, I cannot imagine what my work would be without music in the mix, can you? Something very different, I think. And, ah, I do wish I could play the violin! The two instruments that open doors in my head most, are the French Horn and the cello. Oddly enough, the accordian makes me want to write prose… hmmm.
Anne Overstreet says
(for Darlene, even though cats are not your favorite thing, and perhaps not quite as yummy as yours)
a good thing
even sputtering like
the red Tercel
that noses ’round the block
keeping its metaphorical
head down, focused on
the page, no shocks, just a juddering nib
or pencil lead, any
of instrument that rows
the line toward
will do, for now
Simply Darlene says
I reckon (yes,
I do) that
Kimberlee Conway Ireton says
Anne, What a beautiful post. I have your book of poetry sitting on my nightstand, waiting for me to be done with the women’s retreat I’m leading this weekend, so I can sip and savor your words. If they’re anything like as lovely as the words of this essay, I’m in for a delectable treat. 🙂
Anne Overstreet says
Thank you, Kimberlee. What a lovely thing to say. I think when I read poetry just before sleeping, my dreams are different, more slant, than when I read fiction. Perhaps you will dream of whales and pomegranates! 🙂
Steve Lawton says
Anne–when words can illuminate a wandering idea, shedding soft light ahead and behind, it is a lovely thing. When the words compel a reader to participate, (as did yours) we understand the power of poetry that Dr. Nick sought when he said, “I want to leave the world with one good poem.” He knew that doing so would change the world. He (and Nelle Vander Aark) changed mine.