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Opinion | Thank God for the Poets


The poets are perpetually telling us to search for this sort of peace, to stuff ourselves with sweetness, to fill ourselves up with loveliness. They remind us that “there are, on this planet alone, one thing like two million naturally occurring candy issues, / some with names so beneficiant as to kick / the metal from my knees,” as Ross Homosexual notes in “Sorrow Is Not My Title.”

We’re a species in love with magnificence. In springtime you’ll be able to drive down any rural street on this a part of nation — in all probability in any a part of the nation — and you’ll find a row of daffodils blooming subsequent to the shabbiest homesteads and the rustiest trailers. Usually they’re blooming subsequent to no construction in any respect, ghostly circles round long-vanished mailboxes, a brilliant line denoting a fence row the place no fence now stands. The daffodils inform us that although we is likely to be poor, we’re by no means too poor for magnificence, to discover a strategy to title it whereas we’re nonetheless alive to name the beautiful world by its many beneficiant names.

For isn’t our personal impermanence the undisputed reality that lurks beneath all our fears and all our sorrows and even all our pleasures? “Life is brief, although I preserve this from my youngsters,” writes Maggie Smith in “Good Bones.” “Life is brief, and I’ve shortened mine / in a thousand scrumptious, ill-advised methods.”

Carpe diem is the music the poets have ever sung, and it’s our music, too. “I believe that is / the prettiest world — as long as you don’t thoughts / a little bit dying,” Mary Oliver writes in “The Kingfisher.”

This April is the twenty fifth anniversary of Nationwide Poetry Month, and it arrives within the midst of a tough yr. Final April introduced lockdowns and rising infections, however we didn’t know final April simply how a lot more durable the yr was about to grow to be. We all know now. And regardless of the useful remedies which have emerged, regardless of the rising vaccination charges, regardless of the brand new political stability and the desperately wanted assist for a struggling financial system, it’s exhausting to belief that the terrors are really receding.

We all know now how weak we’re. We perceive now that new terrors — and previous terrors sporting new guises — will all the time stand up and are available for us.

Thank God for our poets, right here within the mildness of April and within the winter storms alike, who assist us discover the phrases our personal tongues really feel too swollen to talk. Thank God for the poets who train our blinkered eyes to see these presents the world has given us, and what we owe it in return.

Margaret Renkl is a contributing opinion author who covers flora, fauna, politics and tradition within the American South. She is the creator of the books “Late Migrations: A Pure Historical past of Love and Loss” and the forthcoming “Graceland, At Final: And Different Essays From The New York Instances.”

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