Jennifer Compton at the Newcastle Poetry Prize ceremony. During our pre-interview conversation (and during the interview too), we discussed how poetry “removes the poison” from life’s most painful moments. This continues to be true for me, both as a writer of poetry and as reader. I lost my mother rather suddenly around this time last year, and though it never stops hurting - I don’t expect the pain to ever dull - the shared understandings that poetry creates - a sense of beauty from the senseless ugliness of death - does indeed remove the poison. This beautiful little new years poem from Lorine Niedecker demonstrates this perfectly: https://twitter.com/LorineNiedecker/status/509355006118858752
I highly recommend that you click the link and read it. It won’t take you long. The poem’s brevity is breathtaking. Niedecker writes in her distinctively succinct way (each word packed tight and resonating with multiple meanings) of loss, love, and new starts - the way the loss of a parent is brought home with milestones like new years day, and the way a parental voice continues to ’speak’ through the seeds they’ve planted; through the turning of years and this permanent and ongoing dialogue between parent and child. I particularly love the last two words, separated in a way my computing skills probably can’t convey (hence the link) and left open for the reader to interpret: the word “spoke” functioning as both noun and verb, uniting past, present and future.
I’ve been participating in a discussion forum on Lorine Niedecker and Emily Dickinson run by the Kelly Writers House, and the poem was presented today by Al Filreis, who is wonderfully curating and driving (or encouraging - Filreis is always Socratic in his approach) these close readings. Coming across a poem like this, in the midst of my ongoing, private grief, is like slowly walking beside the trees on new years day with Niedecker, sharing this beauty and this pain. There is no poison here.