Haunted by a certain poet

Recently, Katrina mentioned a forthcoming book, And I Shall Have Some Peace There, by a friend of hers, Margaret Roach.  She sent me to her friend’s blog, thinking I’d love it.  Of course, I did.  What I’m thinking about today is her post about how she named her book.  Roach talks about reading Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree 30 years ago, in college, and about how the lines had “long called out to her.”

I have a poet who haunts my thoughts like that. The lines of that poet’s poems call out to me in a similarly seductive, inescapable way.  Over and over again.

Here’s a real test of how whether you are reading my blog closely: which poet?  Whose words accompany me the most often? Poetry is the place I go when I really need solace, it’s what I wrote my thesis on in college, it’s often what I choose to read before bed.  I wish I could write poetry, but I can’t.

So whose words does my mind cling to above all others?

Not the three poets I have studied most closely, Anne Sexton, Maxine Kumin, Adrienne Rich.  Not my beloved Mary Oliver or Sharon Olds.  Not the classic greats whose work I know well, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Hopkins.

No.  William Wordsworth. Yes.  The great Romantic poet of middle school.  Un peu hackneyed, I know.  Still, I cannot get Tintern Abbey out of my head.  At least daily, often several times a day, I hear some of the lines from that poem.  Some of the specific lines that recur in my head are “in this moment there is life and food for future years,” “with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things,” and “something far more deeply interfused”.  I also hear “Surprised by joy, impatient as the wind.”

I could go on but I’ll spare you.  When I read Margaret Roach’s description of how Yeats’ words had basically shared her thoughts for 30 years, I thought immediately of Wordsworth.  I thought of how often my subconscious turns to his poetry, over and over again.  The lines are both security blanket and puzzle; it’s as though my mind seeks solace in those words, but also like it returns to them, worrying them, studying them, unfolding a new understanding of their message every once in a while.

I wish, I admit, that my mind would choose a more sophisticated muse.  I would be delighted if one of those other poets lived in my head in this way.  Certainly there are lines from every single one that I mentioned, and a long list of others, that I think of from time to time, even often.  But nobody compares to WW.  I’ll leave you with my favorite passage from the long poem, which, though a bit trite and English 101, I have to admit stuns me every time I read it.

And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts, a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

9 thoughts on “Haunted by a certain poet”

  1. Poetry is the most heightened and amplified form of language; it shouldn’t surprise me that you have an affinity for it.

    The lines that always stick with me are a motley (and hackneyed) lot:

    Tennyson’s “Ulysses”
    “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

    Eliot’s “The Wasteland”
    “I am old, I am old/I will wear my trousers rolled.”

  2. I’m relieved to know that someone with such literary sophistication admits to having adopted (unwittingly perhaps) a Wordsworth poem as the one that whispers throughout life. It makes me feel a bit less embarrassed at hearing snippets from a Longfellow ever in my head. Oh, and I love the lines you quoted.
    And I do find it amusing that, once again, we are writing in similar veins, today being about the poetry that follows us.

  3. The other one I have never forgotten: Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” particularly the quartet called “Burnt Norton.” In part it says:

    Time present and time past
    Are both perhaps present in time future,
    And time future contained in time past.
    If all time is eternally present
    All time is unredeemable.
    What might have been is an abstraction
    Remaining a perpetual possibility
    Only in a world of speculation.
    What might have been and what has been
    Point to one end, which is always present.

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