From Rochester Radar, May 19, 2017:
“My poems almost always grow from my deep attachment to the natural world around me,” says poet Marie Harris of Barrington. The featured poem is no exception, having been written on a late spring day while she was beginning to prepare her garden for planting. “The ‘story’ in the poem is just as it happened, and my impulse was to record it in all its quirky detail, hay and onions and creatures in all,” says Harris. “I know that many readers will have experienced a similar moment, and my task, as I see it, is to record it for them in a way that might cause them to reflect. As the French poet Paul Valéry wrote, ‘A work of art should always teach us that we have not seen what we’ve been looking at.’” Harris, who served as the New Hampshire Poet Laureate from 1999-2004, is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent of which is the prose poem memoir YOUR SUN, MANNY (2010, White Pine Press). She has also edited several poetry anthologies, including AN EAR TO THE GROUND (1989, University of Georgia), one of the first multicultural poetry anthologies in the United States.
While Harris wrote the following poem several years ago in response to a different political upheaval, she finds its message to be equally relevant today.
“What made this experience, and then the poem, special to me was the dawning realization that the series of events I had set in motion were altogether ordinary for me, but they must have been terrifying for the creatures I had inadvertently disturbed,” she says. “Snakes fled; spiders left their homes carrying their tiny families; ants scattered in confusion. How then could I not make the implicit comparison between my huge and clumsy interference and that of, for instance, a powerful and sometimes heedless nation? Without belaboring the point, I hope I have suggested another way ‘to see what we've been looking at’ and pause.”
SOMETIMES THE WIDER WORLD CAN ONLY BE APPREHENDED OBLIQUELY
Snakes are always all of a sudden, no matter where I
encounter them. These two were baking under sheet
of black plastic that covered the old bales of the mulch hay
I needed for the onion row. A garter (imagine it wound
in delicate rings around a stockinged thigh!) and another
I can't name (silver-white core emblazoned along its length
with brown ovals etched in delicate black). Exposed and surprised
by light, uncoiling, they tongue the bright air. Spiders hurry away
carrying bulging white sacs. Ants rearrange their ranks. There has been
a profound disturbance. My each movement occasions an intricate series
of counter movements. I couldn't have predicted, for instance,
the thousands of reactions to my shadow.
This poem was first printed in POETS AGAINST THE WAR, edited by Sam Hamill (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003).
O’Connor, a New York native, recently settled in Rochester after obtaining her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of New Hampshire. Her work has recently appeared in “The Fourth River,” “Stone Canoe,” “Paper Nautilus,” “So to Speak,” “Arsenic Lobster,” and the “Santa Ana River Review,” among other publications. She is also a former poetry editor of the online literary journal “Barnstorm.”
pOETRY HERE & NOW
Poetry Here & Now is published in Rochester Radar, a special section of Fosters Daily Democrat that is direct mailed to households in Rochester, East Rochester, Farmington, and Gonic.
Poetry Here & Now features the work of poets with a connection to Strafford County. Poems are selected by Katie O'Connor, Poet Laureate of Rochester. Writers of all ages, from beginners to published poets, are invited to share their poetry.
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