Friday, July 8, 2011

Ants and Spiders and poems and Life

Saw on Ron Silliman's blog yesterday a reference to a review of Don Wentworth's recently published book Past All Traps, Wentworth's first published collection of poems.  The article's mention of Wentworth's "spiders yes, ants no" behavior made me smile. Because I do the exact same thing--rescue spiders and gently transport them outdoors, but stomp on ants.

 I sometimes feel guilty about this because I'm generally with Buddha on the "no harm to sentient beings" thing.  But here's the thing:  It is what it is.  And that's what the below-quoted poem addresses  (without being explicit) re: our conscious attempts to be who we think we should be, only to be reminded that we are, after all, only human:

Wentworth continues to find those moments that describe a brief truth of our existence -- whether we like it or not.

Past all traps / my shame revealed -- / September ant.

"I capture spiders and take them outdoors," says Wentworth. "But ants? I'm setting traps. And that's part of who we are, too. This isn't all about being good. It's about being."

Carl Mayfield wrote that what drew him to this book "is the poet's incredible ability to pay very close attention to his discoveries, yet not say anything." [1]  But this poet's words say a lot--the words don't merely present an idea/scene/emotion, they invite you to experience it up close (or remind you that you already have and elicit a sudden wave of understanding that has formerly eluded you).

 Don Wentworth is resident in chief over at Issa's Untidy Hut, the poetry blog for Lilliput Review..    You can order his new book there.


Jim Murdoch said...

We don’t see so many ants these days. They were most definitely a part of my childhood, always scurrying about underneath the kitchen window, but never so many as to cause fear. Spiders too were common, invariably in the bathtub, and even though we do get the occasional one these days, they, too, are rare. I blame it on global warming, or gamma rays in the atmosphere, or something along those lines. Even butterflies are something you don’t see so many of. In the house we do get woodlice (which we call ‘slaters’), beetles and the occasional earwig – only seen one cockroach in my life – all what I think of a ‘dirty’ bugs: they all get exterminated as quickly as I can find a piece of tissue paper which usually affords them five or six seconds to make their escape and if they can make cover in that time they live to get squashed another day. Crane flies get saved (the Scots call them Jenny longlegs but most people in the UK call them daddy longlegs), ladybirds and spiders, even totie ones.

I have a bug poem you might like:


"Bugs with six legs
are the worst kind,"
my last wife said,
"they're unclean things."
She still stepped on

Six is one short
of perfection
but then a bug
with seven legs
would just look plain

7 November 2007

awyn said...

Hi Jim,
Thanks, as always, for reading and leaving a comment.

My intent, in this particular post, was to highlight Don Wentworth’s wonderful poetry and the fact that he has a new book coming out. Despite a shared interest in Buddhism and a similarity in how we deal with spiders and ants, the bugs were kind of peripheral asides to the more important point, namely, Don Wentworth's poems, this particular one's effect on me, and Don’s ability to "say" (what amounts to a life-changing insight), without actually "saying" it (in his poem). It was this that I’d hoped readers would take away with them from this posting.

Ah, the power of words in a poem to connect; and of titles, labels, subject headings, etc. to mislead! (By naming it "Ants, Bugs, Poems, & Life", I think I gave a wee too many possible choices to grab the attention. The bug eradication issue, introduced in the first paragraph, seems to have trumped --interest wise--everything else that follows, including the concept of guilt, shame, Buddhism, Don Wentworth the poet (the actual subject of the piece), his poem, the insight that produced the poem, etc. etc.

As a writer, I’m wondering, should writers stop trying to "reach" readers . . . and just . . write? I think I am failing as a writer. You are about the only one who ever comments here, Jim. Thank you for your poem, your helpful critiques when I pen my own, and your frequent comments. Am still not used to getting them, much less know how to properly respond sometimes. Blogging remains, even after all this time, still somewhat awkward for me. It has both helped, and hindered, my writing, not so much the stories but especially poems. It does say, though, in my banner, doesn't it--these are “Jottings”, meaning hasty scribblings, not prepared pieces as one would construct for say, book publication. I'm much more comfortable promoting others' work, as on Salamander C., but still finding, a bit of a disconnect, writerly speaking, between writing for the blog, and writing for me. This just came to me (the trickster, no doubt!):

“Failure to Communicate”
After Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke

Words being threaded
my piece untangles
the moment lost

Thanks again for stopping by to read.