Poet: Donald Hall
Poem: White Apples
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Comment 1 of 3, added on March 30th, 2006 at 3:37 PM.
If life is like a poem, what blessings must await us. As consensus is reached after much debate, so is the harvest reaped after the struggle for life reaches fruition. It almost seems that a poem must die first to be reborn in its completion. But like in life, we set aside what we begin, to later begin again what we set aside, and so in, complete the cycle, finishing where we started and starting where we finished. I wonder what Sappho could tell us. There is maturity in beauty, surely, but also beauty in maturity. Deliberation is a great quality - so many ill qualified decisions lacking deliberation. And when there is no time to deliberate, a poem takes on responsibilities it can’t necessarily burden. Fear, for example benefits from context. Fear can only be part of a poem. The motivation perhaps but fear itself, can’t write a poem. And so it seems with “White Apples” deliberation has given the poem context and yet not stolen its urgency. It is as if Sappho walked into the room, ugly as sin and we said but how…and she said, “it was time and observation, denial, even, that allowed me to see woman in all her sensuality.” A paradox? Maybe. But just as an infant must mature, we must look inward before looking out. And the irony is, that it is often easier to observe than introspect. That is why it takes “a monstrosity of patience” to write a poem.
Indeed, a lie often contains the truth. What is fiction but a lie. Why do we not always speak of ourselves in the first person? Perhaps because we don’t know ourselves. It’s easy to hide in characterization, even of the “self”. “White apples and the taste of stone…” is a line that knows itself – part fear and part bravery. It gives the poem context. It seems to say, “I can’t write this poem. It must write itself.” It has a life of its own and may span many years as it travels through the mind. And then one day we cross its path and see our self for the first time in its eyes, just as it sees itself in the eyes of its long lost master, and yet who knows which is really the master. And so we let it go and are done.
nick harris from United States
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