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Silence and Poetry

Smacholdt's picture

It felt quiet in Ashbridge Park. It wasn’t, not really, because of the omnipresent leaf blowers and speeding motorcycles . But the sounds felt more muted, and somehow farther away than in our usual spot outside English House. I liked that our class was able to lead an entirely self-directed class. I felt like I re-learned a lesson on how to listen, and how to be still. I learned things that I forgot I knew.

I also enjoyed reading poetry while sitting outside on the sunny grass. I was especially pleased with the reactions to the poems that I had chosen. I picked Traveling Through the Dark by William Stafford ( because of its understated sadness. I think that the last two lines about the speaker’s only swerving were poignant, and got to the root of our relationship to nature. We can’t always relate well to it. Sometimes horrible things happen and we ignore them.

Additionally, I was happy to have found an applicable Robert Frost poem that seemed less pastoral than some of his other works.

I thought that it was so cool to “hear” Frost wonder about the trees, while watching the trees in Ashbridge sway back and forth. I though too that the message of listening to some kind of innate “natural” wisdom was directly connected to what we had aimed to achieve in the park.  I also chose the poem again because of the last two lines, “I shall have less to say/But I shall be gone.” We only just began to touch upon the possible implications of the word “gone.” Has the speaker died? Committed suicide? Gone on vacation? Gone soul-searching? My thoughts were originally that he had done the latter, but after hearing other interpretations, I’m not as sure. Any of these interpretations are possible.

Anne also mentioned that she would have liked to talk more about the structure of the poem. This was not one of ideas things that I thought about in picking the poem, but in looking more closely at it, I can see a deliberate structure. Some ending words of lines rhyme and some don’t. Trees don’t always sway in a rhythm, but sometimes they do. The sounds of the lines are almost like the sound of wind through branches. But my favorite part of the experience of reading the poem was the quiet after we’d finished reading through it a second time. The silence following it was magical. It was quiet, but it was as though the last line of the poem was still ringing in the air.



sarahj's picture

An Accidental Theme

I loved the line in Traveling Through the Dark, "I could hear the wilderness listen" and I thought it both connected to and diverged from The Sound of Trees.  Both of the poems seem to make an emphasis on sound.  The Sound of Trees insists that the Trees are never silent, while I continue to wonder how one would know whether the "wilderness" is listening?  Does it listen in extreme quiet? Or does it listen through or while making noise?  If it is silent how can you hear it?  Doesn't "hearing" imply a sound?  How often have we ever heard some say I heard silence? 

Our accidental theme of the day seemed to by sound. Both of the two poems and the opening and closing exercises put emphasis on the presence and/or lack of sound.