Mending Walls: a conversation about poetry continues

diane at faithincommunity is leading us in our most recent dialogue about poetry….join us! Scroll down to Mending Wall…

some things we are discussing. From John Ciardi’s book, “How Does a Poem Mean,” (1975):

a poem functions like liturgy in that there are two basic levels similar to “primary theology” (the experience of God, the divine, worship at it’s best) and “secondary theology” the analysis of that “experience.” A poem is meant to be experienced as a “performance,” and then how it is interpreted, or rather, how we come to understand the poem.

a poem uses symbol, or “something that stands for something else.” In poetry a symbol is like a rock dropped in a pool, it ripples out in all directions and the ripples are in motion, who can say where the last ripple disappears. In the process of forming these ripples a simultaneous effect is put in place – the effect of being the same and the effect of its opposite. Ripples both mirror themselves and effect their opposite.

symbols signify something more than the literal self which gains emotional expansion and intensify over time.

there is a rhythmic resemblance between poetry and prayer.

poetry is a series of interpretive pictures, the words suggest feelings, images, music, an interplay between surface words and what lies underneath.

words evoke feeling, involve the whole body, have a history, and create a picture.

Every word is a feeling, every word has it’s own personality.

Words involve the whole body in the process of breath and muscle needed to make the sound of the word. Every word has a muscular feel:

mimetic: when the saying of the word enacts what it denotes ie oily
onomatopoetic: when the saying of the word imitates the sound the word denotes ie buzz, splash

a word has a history: languages die but words tend to live on. the word may fall short of it original meaning but the surviving word continues to be used, albeit, somewhat “chipped or broken.”

With few exceptions, every word traced back far enough is either a metaphor or an onomatopoeia.
Check out the poem and join the conversation!


About Terri C Pilarski

I am an Episcopal priest serving a delightfully progressive, interesting, creative congregation. I have been married more than half my life to the same man. We have two grown children, plus two dogs and two cats, although the number of four legged household members changes from time to time. I love to garden, knit, read, and play on Facebook or with my blog. I have been a practitioner of daily meditation since I was nineteen. I practice yoga five days a week and walk every where I am able too.
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12 Responses to Mending Walls: a conversation about poetry continues

  1. Diane says:

    Wow… thanks. I hope you are enjoying… one of the few truly well-written textbooks I ever encountered.I think Mary Oliver would be good, too.

  2. mompriest says:

    Mary Oliver’s book was checked out of the library. I’ll look again, and then perhaps I’ll just buy it. I do like Oliver. And I am enjoying the Ciardi book.

  3. Grace thing says:

    This is so cool! I JUST posted a poem on my blog, a poem that has been haunting me all week…thinking about poetry lately and I popped over to your post and voila. Love synchronicity. You know, John Ciardi wrote a poem once about watching his little son run through a field of daisies. I read it when I was 13 or something and it has stuck with me ever since. But I can’t find it! It might have “morning” in the title, but maybe not. I remember one phrase from the poem: “sun-up juices” and something about kicking the heads off daisies, but alas, that’s all I remember. Anyone know this poem?

  4. mompriest says:

    diane may know the poem from Ciardi…

  5. Barbara B. says:

    The John Ciardi poem is “One Morning”…I remember my littlest one in a fieldrunning so hard at the morning in himhe kicked the heads off daisies. Oh, wildand windy and spilling over the brimof his sun-up juices he ranin the dew of himself. My son.And the white flower headsshot like sparks where his kneespumped, and his hot-shodfeet took off from time, as who knowswhen ever again a running morning will beso light-struck, flower-sparked-full between him and me.

  6. Diane says:

    I think we have a poetry club coming on…

  7. Diane says:

    btw, I DIDN’T know that poem… I do know Ciardi translated Dante’s Divine Comedy from italian…Barb, that’s a great one. thanks for sharing.

  8. mompriest says:

    Oh Barb, thanks! Great poem. I’m getting back to reading Ciardi now, after a very unfruitful day trying to get at my sermon for Sunday…

  9. Jan says:

    Today I put a short thought on my blog (with a poem by Joy Harjo) about the need to read poetry aloud. I experienced that today with a book study I lead. . . .

  10. Grace thing says:

    Thanks for the poem! I can’t believe how easy that was! What wise and learned women I have at my fingertips…

  11. Catherine + says:

    What a great expose’ of the anatomy of poetry and its life as living literature. I think I need to get that book. By the way, you can find Mary Oliver for cheap at as I have. I read Mary Oliver to my hospice patients and they are elated by the end of several poems.I found my way here via Jan’s blog Yearning after she visited my blog. I have written some of my own and posted them there too.I would love a book club!

  12. mompriest says:

    Thanks, Catherine for stopping by and joining in. In the near future I’m going to post a new poem for conversation. In the meantime I (we) will stop by your place.

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