Friday, July 27, 2012

"We force the spring"

This ceremony is held in the depth of winter,
but by the words we speak
and the faces we show the world,
we force the spring.
President Bill Clinton
January 20, 1993

Spring can't be forced, not even by
     the January thaw--
no tulip blooms by state decree;
     robins obey no law.

The libertarian butterfly
     disdains the plebiscite,
and roses grow, steady and slow--
     you can't compel delight!

The Poet's Voice

Along with the alteration of the design of the poem have come, as I have said, substantial changes in the poem's diction and its subject matter. Much was gained by these changes, but certain things were lost. There was, in the tone of the old poems, a certainty, an authority which was implied and fortified through its elevated diction. Of course I am not talking about poetic diction! I am talking about a diction and a tone that was other than the daily, the usual, the ordinary. In and of itself, apart from the content of the poem, this tone suggested to the reader that something of import was on the page--was contained within the occasion of the poem. Since, as I see it, the work of the poem is to transcend the ordinary instance, to establish itself on a second, metaphysical level, this tone was important, and useful. It served, in the old poem, as a steeple serves a church; even in the distance it says: Here is holy ground. Here is something different from everyday.

Mary Oliver, in "The Poet's Voice," from Blue Pastures (Harvest/Harcourt, 1995), this excerpt p. 105; entire essay pp. 95-115