Talking to Plants
When I took these photos of this planter, I immediately thought of a poem by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge from her brilliant book, Hello, the Roses. Her lines are long and dense and beautifully odd. In a piece called “Slow Down, Now,” she says:
“I repeat the words freshness, tenderness, softness, the happiness of birds, as if speaking directly to a plant.”
and later in the same poem:
“One day you need a plant you don't know, in order to connect pieces in yourself, or in a person you're trying to be with.”
I hadn't opened the book for a while, and it's reminded me of why I'm a writer. It's reminded me to say words as though speaking directly to a plant.
Next, I'm drawn to Straw for the Fire by Theodore Roethke, and laugh when I open the book to:
“There are so many ways of going to pot as a poet; so many pitfalls, so many snares and delusions.”
He goes on:
“I used to think of poets as helping one another, as advancing consciousness together.”
Which would be a lovely thought if it weren't in the past tense. Though I do think it's possible, regardless. That poets end up advancing consciousness.
Lastly, I pluck from my shelf another book I've not read for a long time. Essays. The Wedding Dress by Fanny Howe. She says, “The sending out of words to a blind future is what any writer does (nothing special, chosen, or justifiable) that replicates the sending of messages without envelopes, speech travelling forward to a listener.”
I think it helps to remember that what we're doing as writers isn't anything all that special. And yet, of course it is, too. We're talking to plants, we're sending messages in bottles.
Fanny Howe quotes a poem by the Russian poet, Y.A. Boratynksky, which is lovely and which every writer starting out should read. And it may be useful also to those who are deep into the woods of writing and who know that there's no turning back.
My talent is small and I am not famous
But I live – and there is someone
To whom my existence is dear.
The distant one, he who comes after me
Will find in my verse my soul.
Who can tell? My soul might connect with him
And just as I found a friend in my generation
So will I find a reader in the future.