Journeys in Poetry


Reading poetry should be just like how travelling should be – the journey matters more than the destination. I was reading Muriel Rukeyser’s “Then I saw what the calling was”  and it felt wonderful to make a single sentence interpretation out of a thirteen-line poem.

The poem goes:

All the voices of the wood called “Muriel!”
but it was soon solved; it was nothing, it was not for me.
The words were a little like Mortal and More and Endure
And a world like Real , a sound like Health or Hell.
Then I saw what the calling was : it was the road I traveled,
the clear
time and these colors of orchards, gold behind gold and the full
shadow begin each tree and behind each slope. Not to me
the calling, but to anyone and at last I saw : where
the road lay through sunlight and many voices and the marvel
orchards, not for me, not for me, not for me.
I cam into my clear being; uncalled, alive, and sure.
Nothing was speaking to me, but I offered and all was well.

And I arrived at the powerful green hill.

And what did I make out of this verse? The road may not beckon us at all times but we can still always proceed. We can be “alive and sure” even in decisions to tread which are hardly motivated by external prompts or initiations but by our internal will or confident instinct. Is not that what the etymology of experience is telling us: to go faring even in the face of peril? To go and see and feel for ourselves the howling of foxes and the rustiness of old thorns because life gets real when it does not just stay in our heads?

How poetry becomes not just a breath, but a humongous cloud of air in spaces where suns have recently become oblivious; how in expanding a simple thought, we do not frown just as in redundancies, but delight at occupying “verbiage.” Arriving at the message, poetry can always make us feel fancy at the manner by which we get there.

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