Poem Lost on the Road
A bit of poem fell on the roada phrase copied from some
old book long out of print
I wanted to use it in a new verse
but I lost it somewhere as I walked
maybe under a leaf with its garland
of dew or the breeze pulled it away
from my careless hand
I've forgotten what it said exactlyI'll try to re-create the line
like a resurrection of images.
A camera catches a scene only once—but I will re-draw the light, the lines
of shadow branches on the hot
gravel when the river is low
but that's not what the poem said,
the part I lost, I think it mentioned
ravens though there are none here.
1. What does your experience of nature mean to you as a poet?
I suppose people write under many stimuli-- emotions, politics, divorces, etc . I used to write about my own youthful angst, but that is long gone, and in older age, I reflect more on what surrounds me. But somehow, anything other than the natural world just doesn't mean that much to me, and so even when writing about something personal (I almost never write about the external world of strife, history, cities, etc), I want to find how my feelings are reflected in non-human objects, lives, landscapes. So the natural world is almost the only world in my poetry. The natural world is everything we aren't, what we should be or strive to be, or might be. It is so much more important than we who work so hard to destroy it. It's really the only thing out there, and we are insignificant in the face of it. Thus, how I experience the natural world, and I try to do that as much as possible, even in solitary frozen camping experiences in the dead of winter, is what I want to reveal and have us consider how we are merely imprints on its surface.
2. "I will re-draw the light" ... that image leads me to ask about your ambitions as a poet. At either a macro -- career -- level, and or a micro -- individual poem -- level, what are you wishing to achieve?
A camera catches a fleeting image, in a single moment, but in poetry I can draw and re-draw an image from my memory as often as I like, each time nuanced differently. I am retired-- I have no career ambitions, though a chapbook might make me feel recognized for what I do. Individually, I have written so long it's a habit; I simply notice and listen, and reflect it back later. I like to show the scenes I've witnessed so maybe others can feel them too, even though they're far away, like looking through someone's old photo album. My images of the American West are almost commonplace to me, but I realize that with our international audiences (I've been published in the UK as well), what I've seen is something unique and different. I've had to explain various details of our landscape to British editors who have really no idea what I'm trying to describe. And I like to capture them for myself too.
3. Do you care to dwell in the forgotten sometimes?
I think I'm to the age where I am reflecting more and more on finality and decay. I'm not of the wired, hooked-in generation lost in my personal electronic bubble, so I feel as if I notice things that others may miss. I'm also writing more about silence, such a paradox, about things lost, gone, or overlooked. One aspect of focusing on the natural world is that it is often made of tiny happenings and gestures that you must work to notice, like the line of ants I saw recently carrying grass seeds across the path to their burrow. So both forgotten in time, and overlooked or ignored-- older people need to take up the slack, so to speak, and help others not forget, in their hurry, what else is around them. Maybe that's another function of poetry-- to reveal and remind us of things outside of our daily paths.
Emily Strauss is a retired California teacher and poet, who focuses on the natural world and our relation to it.