Sunday, February 21, 2010

In the Grove: The Poet at Ten

by Jane Kenyon
She lay on her back in the timothy
and gazed past the doddering
auburn heads of sumac.

A cloud- huge, calm,
and dignified- covered the sun
but did not, could not, put it out.

The light surged back again.

Nothing could rouse her then
from that joy so violent
it was hard to distinguish from pain.


Cosmic Monkey said...
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Cosmic Monkey said...

My previous comment wasn't really a reflection of how I thought. I take issue with not being able to distinguish joy from pain. I feel that is simply not so, that they are wildly separable, and that if one is having trouble separating the two feelings, then there is a problem. But I feel that the poet uses this feeling well, the agony of vastness. Is the pleasure in being small in such a wilderness, the terror of insignificance? Is the pleasure in just being alive, being alive to feel overwhelmed?

conniewonnie13 said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this poem CM. I heartily appreciate your perspective and the way you call out the 'agony of vastness' represented in the poem. Although, I do believe that sometimes the place where joy and pain overlap is a gray area and sometimes quite difficult to see distinctly where one ends and the other begins...

It's sort of how I see the creative in science and mathematics in fine arts; at some point all of it merges into an infinite, whole experience with much overlap and new definitions. Profound feelings cease to be 'good' or 'bad' and are necessarily indistinguishable from 'other' feelings simply because it its all so huge. This is what I love about John Denver's Sunshine On My Shoulders.

In my experience joy breaks into grief quite easily, sort of like mixing yellow and blue to make green. They are still two colors but once mixed become a new aspect. Birth is like this too. Big pain is big joy mixed.

Big joy can feel like grief and vs versa... though I happily and ecstatically fling myself through the heather on a beautiful sunshiney day, I know it is a fleeting happiness. The most profound joys always pass, the living is always touched by the shadow of death.

I think the way a person negotiates this is part of the great work of life on Earth.

It's a complex poem to be sure, open for many interpretations. I think you put it beautifully when you ask if the pleasure in being small is such a wilderness... I have to say yes. Yes, for me it is.