Thursday, March 3, 2011

Close To The Ground

"Language is not an abstract construction of the learned, or of dictionary makers. but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground."-Noah Webster, lexicographer (1758-1843)

I somehow always sensed that Noah Webster was a smart guy, but I absolutely love this quote. It describes so perfectly for me the fertile ground from which poetry springs.

Poetry is not "an abstract construction of the learned" but arises from "the needs, ties, joys, affections and tastes" of the humanity of the poet. I could add a few adjectives to Webster's list, but why burden a good thing?

I love the idea that the base of language is broad and low. It means to me that good poetry appeals to everyone, does not put on airs---is in fact close to the ground and close to the heart. It is of the earth and earthy. It can take us to new heights, but it flows from our very humanity which after all will end in the earth.

The earth is so much with us these near spring days. As the sun warms it, I can smell it and long to put my hands into it.

I remember my father putting cooling mud on my bee sting when I was a child. It was a folk remedy and probably the coolness that relieved the sting, but who knows what magic healing power it contained. The earth is magical in so many ways. Imagine the potter taking a lump of earth and making it into a bowl from which we eat. And the food that we eat growing from that same earth. Magic.

So here are some thoughts as spring nears.

Live close to the ground.

Write from your humanity.

Celebrate our earth. It might be all the magic we need. It and poetry.