When I was younger – all through college and shortly thereafter – I wrote a fair amount of poetry. Most of it was mediocre at best, although there are a few poems that I am willing to share. Some I already have, although most of the ones I have posted here are fairly recent. I hadn’t thought about poetry as an art form in a long time, and hadn’t gone back to re-read my early work in quite a while. That has changed recently.
I have been participating in a workshop at church in which we are studying the works of Mary Oliver, a Unitarian Universalist poet, and exploring how it can relate to our spirituality. This past week, we read and analyzed her poem “In Blackwater Woods“. There were different perceptions of the imagery in it – many in the group read it from the perspective of seasonal cycles and letting go of that which we cherish, such as children who grow up.
There were other ideas that floated around the group, though, and one in particular struck me. A woman who had lived out West, and seen the results of forest fires, read the poem from that point of view. When she shared her vision of what Mary Oliver was describing, it reminded me of a poem I wrote about a year out of college, when I took a trip to the Pacific Northwest and drove through an area that was coming back after a fire – the kind known as a “prescribed” or “controlled” burn.
So in honor of Mary Oliver, here is the poem I wrote over 20 years ago.
Lonely Lives Lost
The hillsides I pass
are scattered with
of tree stumps –
Lives lost to man
to save lives from nature.
among the lonely
mourning the soldiers of the forest.
I am going to spend some time re-reading my old poetry and seeing if there is anything worth salvaging, intact or with work, and then sharing.