From the Word-Sea

(c) Nin Harris 2006-2010

i

I remember poems discovered as I chased the trail of words down to seek the grappling between known and unknown. Some of these I discovered on my own, happy accidents waiting to happen that I may never forget. And then there are poems that were quoted to me like chocolate-covered, liquor-soaked fruits arrayed in guise of jewelled flowers on a silver tray dusted with fairy-sparkled sugar. A dainty treat set out to capture seaweed-blinded merpoets. Later, as an acolyte of the written word, more. Poems and prose pored over, studied in earnest along with letters as depths are spiraled into, past midnight.

I wonder about these gifts brought to the word-sea and those that the sea gifts back in return. Kelp, seaweed, sand-dollars, shells, mollusks, current-swept crabs, messages in jewel-green bottles from damp cellars hidden from Provencal sunshine. Fins escaping nets, arms flailing in evasion of reefs. Mermaids lured by sunken treasure, glittering combs and words in caskets, left yawning open like oyster shells ready to clamp shut upon glistening pearls.

(March 3, 2006)

ii

On acquiring Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter

You paid this much for a book consisting of blank pages?

Perhaps merciful that they knows not of Anaktoria with whom comparisons have been made, though I remain yet of the tribe that would sing of phaon, actaeon, tammuz, and would sail on a barge only with wyrd sisters towards isle of apples, ever-beating at breast-bone.

Perhaps coldness is spawned from much salt-yearning,
Perhaps heat spliced from rivers of magma,

Perhaps these are textual spurnings
of nature-flouted gifts
from the not-sea.

(March 3, 2006)

iii

Stacks and stacks of books are balanced on other books which are balanced on piles of papers, empty or with words printed on them. I am like an island surrounded by a sea of textual carnage. Head whirling with Yoruba, Obeah, Celtic tales, with wild sargasso seas and dreams on monkey mountains. And then of course, there’s Yeats, good old Yeats. Interesting thing about poets. Some, you may outgrow. Others, you will discover grow on you with more frequent usage, like Seamus Heaney. And with Yeats, I find as I “mature”, different poems strike different resonances with me. There’s eternity for you. It’s in the lines that shift, adapt, mutate with the experience of the reader/beholder. Kind of like how Hesse’s Steppenwolfe has different layers everytime I read it.

(March 7, 2006)

iv

I was going to quote more Yeats, but stopped myself. Instead, I meandered back to the forest of words in the other room (dubbed my “study”) and stalked the poetry shelf, looking for old friends. I found Edna St. Vincent Millay, whom I love well, and I found Rabindranath Tagore. And then I picked up a book of poems by Jorge Luis Borges. I think Borges and I are going to get along very well indeed.

I like typing out my own freeform words and random poetry. But there is something very comforting and immediate about typing out the words of someone else’s poem, as though making it part of you in a wholly different way from reading it aloud or clutching the words behind your breastbone, like a lump of liquid gold you’ve swallowed. I have spent hours thus, with this gold welling up from behind my breastbone, to tease my esophagus in the way reflux now creeps upwards at odd moments of the night when I’ve had something too acidic or pungent to eat.

In teenhood, a strange girl, clutching anthologies of dead poets to her, reading, still reading words of cowslipped meadows, dancing fairies in the luminescent darknesses of the woods, dreamers and mystics all. Words, words. Just words, that are the world and everything around it. What I wouldn’t give to be reading some of those poems for the first time again, just feeling the beauty of that moment arrowing into me with merciless precision, never missing, as the moment shoots sharper than any marksman.

(March 8, 2006)