Friday, April 25, 2014

Peggy Day

I’m not given to shouting but I am to sing the praises of my wife on her 93rd birthday one week from today. Every morning she writes a poem; Peggy’s way of sharing her delight with the world or her grappling with its confounding ways. Over a hundred have been published in the past three years in literary journals. Her poems arrive more from a seemingly inexhaustible well than a vessel. They come not as an exertion but an affection. Poems are love letters to life. Even lines of vehemence against injustice suggest the alternative. 

When the poet. William Stafford, was asked when did he start writing poetry he replied, When did you stop? He believed we all began writing out of our unfettered imagination, but were discouraged by teachers, by parents and a society which doesn’t support flights of the imagination. Peggy never stopped.

We’ve ended our traveling days. Seldom do we go more than a few miles from home but that’s ample for her to feed that hungry beast, the imagination. The interior landscape is another country, a house without windows or walls. Peggy’s work snoops and prowls in far corners.

As Stanley Kunitz said, All metaphors are the same metaphor. When you touch the web of creation at any point the whole web shudders. This is how Peggy’s poetry dares to bring together disparate images and tones of voice. She rubs the colloquial against the elevated, cliché against classical, fresh juice squeezed from a fallen fruit juxtaposed with the exhausted language of cable news.

Peggy is a person of enormous enthusiasms but poetry requires a counterweight…and she has that too. She enjoys extended periods of silence in which ideas gestate. I witness the cauldron bubbling in her eyes. As long as it would take to gather the strangeness of myself / It eludes until I have some inkling / barely audible as traffic and the mind surrender their cacophony /… A transformation takes place, not magic but alchemical. The overlooked ordinary is made extraordinary and in the process something new is brought into the world. Call it a birth. She is a woman of manifold births.

Trying to penetrate a poem is no easy matter. It calls for an effort something like love, to enter into the poet’s sensibility and be empathetically with them through all the leaps and stretches.  Peggy’s poetry is a strenuous voyage. She doesn’t linger very long on a metaphor where you can catch your breath. Nor is her work a mini-narrative. Hers is a poetry closer to music in terms of its spacing and shapes, at times combustive and other times, contemplative.  We see / the bravery of trees without wish or candles /  birds startle the branch into wings.. The lines spring intuitively often inexplicably. They operate on a plane with threads dangling and questions unanswered…just as in life.   

Poetry is not only a way of perceiving, it is a way of being. She has created a reception, a harbor, for everything washing ashore, sea life and debris. The senses are on alert. There is no way of being more fully alive. Like every poet Peggy has acquired a sui generis voice, authentic to herself. She writes under her maiden name, Aylsworth and we have together come to call this her Aylsworthian sound. She knows the weight of words and hears the rhythms of speech. .Even with diminished hearing she picks up the unsaid. The poem issues from the totality of her ninety-three years.

As the partial self pledges its allegiance
to a daylight tidiness of napkins on the table
stir the gibbous moon into your cup.

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