What does this goldfinch have to do with anything
…other than the fact that I’ve discovered that I like these entries to have pictures, and I wanted to figure out how to post a picture. But there’s also the real-world analogue to this cyber entry, namely the space outside my window, where for years I have pointlessly hung a black thistle feeder, though no finches ever came to eat thistle seed: I have finally achieved goldfinches. [A pause from typing this while I roll over to look out. Yep. there is a goldfinch! I think they are nesting in the nearby hazelnut tree.]
To get to the question of what they have to do with poetry, I don’t think a poem would interest me unless the actual world intruded somehow (having said this, I am barraged with exceptions. Like most of Wallace Stevens.)
Inward, non-real-world sources would be useful as my own habitat grows rather limited by my growing agoraphobia (no, not really phobia, not fear, more just an aversion, and not of the marketplace either, not of impersonal social settings. In fact I’m attracted to poems written from the point of view of an observer in the public commons. But usually a detached observer. And hence I force myself out. It’s social interaction I’ve become averse to.)
As Dickinson would say, isn’t my father’s yard enough? In that restricted environment, she looked to birds, who put mortality very plainly in view, as the seasons pass and their singing comes and goes, as the species appear and vanish in their migratory habits. “We are the birds that stay” is how Dickinson describes those who witness, as she did, the deaths of their loved ones. Birds became stand-ins for humans.
It is good to stay vigilant about what is going on outside, but then, once one tunes into outside, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the passing of everything. My thistle feeder is planted in a clump of rhododendrons, which were so spectacular and heartening when they popped open (it seems like) the other day. But then it rained, and now they’re all smashed and decrepit. One pricks oneself up to the world, and realizes it’s all sad.
Sadness isn’t a perspicacious-enough response, though. Dickinson sure kept her wits about her when it came to grief. And the writing of a poem is also the act of taking a stand against the sadness.
Lucia Perillo grew up in the suburbs of New York City. She earned a BSc in wildlife management from McGill University in Montreal and worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before earning an MA in English from Syracuse University. Perillo was the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Dangerous...