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The Thread of Poetry

Anne Dalke's picture
Jeff and I started the experiment, this past weekend, of speaking only Spanish to one another. So far, it's been a pretty good experience -- it helps keep the Spanish switch "on" in our minds, while we can take the time to listen and to correct and to understand one another, without feeling like we're imposing on the patience of others. It is also helping to turn what has been the great problem for me on this trip--my inability to speak quickly, without thinking, what's on my mind--into an opportunity: it forces me to think before I speak. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's turning our speaking into a kind of poetry, with lots of pauses around our words.

This image came to me because--in preparation for our departure for Chile this weekend--I've been reading the Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda. These are long thin poems, with lots of white space surrounding them on the page. One of them, "Oda al Hila/Ode to a Thread," begins

Esta es el hilo This is the thread
de la poesía. of poetry.
Los hechos como oveyas Events, like sheep,
van cargados wear wooly
de lana coats of
negra black
o blanca. or white.
Llámalos y vendrán Call, and wondrous
prodigiosos rebaños.... flocks will come,
Tienes a tu merced You have at your call
una montaña.... a mountain....
No lo puedes hacer, You can't do it that way.
tienes que hilarla, You must spin it,
levanta un hila, fly a thread
súbelo.... and climb it...

In another part of my brain/in another part of the afternoon, I've begun to work on editing a book project for the Working Group on Emergence @ Bryn Mawr. It's not so different, this process of drawing out a thread from the "wondrous flocks" of words produced by my colleagues, trying to find a line of thinking, a way of organizing the mountain....