Opinion | Thank God for the Poets


The poets are ceaselessly telling us to search for this type of peace, to stuff ourselves with sweetness, to fill ourselves up with loveliness. They remind us that “there are, on this planet alone, one thing like two million naturally occurring candy issues, / some with names so beneficiant as to kick / the metal from my knees,” as Ross Homosexual notes in “Sorrow Is Not My Name.”

We’re a species in love with magnificence. In springtime you’ll be able to drive down any rural highway on this a part of nation — in all probability in any a part of the nation — and you will discover a row of daffodils blooming subsequent to the shabbiest homesteads and the rustiest trailers. Usually they’re blooming subsequent to no construction in any respect, ghostly circles round long-vanished mailboxes, a shiny line denoting a fence row the place no fence now stands. The daffodils inform us that although we is perhaps poor, we’re by no means too poor for magnificence, to discover a option to identify it whereas we’re nonetheless alive to name the beautiful world by its many beneficiant names.

For isn’t our personal impermanence the undisputed reality that lurks beneath all our fears and all our sorrows and even all our pleasures? “Life is brief, although I preserve this from my youngsters,” writes Maggie Smith in “Good Bones.” “Life is brief, and I’ve shortened mine / in a thousand scrumptious, ill-advised methods.”

Carpe diem is the music the poets have ever sung, and it’s our music, too. “I feel that is / the prettiest world — as long as you don’t thoughts / a little bit dying,” Mary Oliver writes in “The Kingfisher.”

This April is the 25th anniversary of National Poetry Month, and it arrives within the midst of a tough 12 months. Final April introduced lockdowns and rising infections, however we didn’t know final April simply how a lot more durable the 12 months was about to grow to be. We all know now. And regardless of the useful remedies which have emerged, regardless of the rising vaccination charges, regardless of the brand new political stability and the desperately wanted assist for a struggling economic system, it’s exhausting to belief that the terrors are actually receding.

We all know now how susceptible we’re. We perceive now that new terrors — and outdated terrors sporting new guises — will at all times stand up and are available for us.

Thank God for our poets, right here within the mildness of April and within the winter storms alike, who assist us discover the phrases our personal tongues really feel too swollen to talk. Thank God for the poets who educate our blinkered eyes to see these items the world has given us, and what we owe it in return.

Margaret Renkl is a contributing opinion author who covers flora, fauna, politics and tradition within the American South. She is the creator of the books “Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss” and the forthcoming “Graceland, At Last: And Other Essays From The New York Times.”

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