A friend recently asked me, “But what makes it a poem?” I confess I was stumped for a minute, then resorted to a fairly dry, textbook definition. This bothered me, so I went in search of a better answer. I’m not at all surprised that I found one in Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry. Oliver ends her analysis of “The Red Wheelbarrow,” by William Carlos Williams with this brilliant description:
“It is, above all, a poem that celebrates not only a momentary enchantment plucked out of the vast world but the deftness and power of the imagination and its dazzling material: language.”
Isn’t that a wonderful explanation of a poem? I have been enchanted by fresh peaches this week, and found this dazzling celebration of them to share with you today:
by Li-Young Lee
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
Read the rest of the poem here.
Please be sure to visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for the Poetry Friday Round Up.
10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “From Blossoms””
“From joy to joy to joy.” Finding the poetic, sometime elusive, sometimes just inside a peach.
“To carry within us an orchard”, yes, I would say it fits the definition you shared, Catherine. In All The Light We Cannot See, Doerr wrote that it was like “wedges of wet sunlight.” Peaches evoke poetry this time of year, don’t they? Thank you!
I think I’ll read “From Blossoms” again and again. Really beautiful.
This is lovely, Catherine. Thank you.
Isn’t it wonderful how a poem about peaches can become a poem about life and death and a poem that brings me to tears? Sigh.
Yum. Thank you for the “dust of summer.” There are some sitting on the counter right now, ripe and waiting. I’ll share this poem with the others who will be eating them today!
And thank you for the quote. I made it fancy so I could save it: https://notegraphy.com/MLHahn/note/1941433
Catherine, this is one of my all-time favorite poems! I often read it as a “by someone else/poem I love” at readings. I would say that what makes something poetry is compressed emotion and an element of surprise. I expect/want/need to be filled with astonishment and wonder, and poems are the way to do that! Thank you for sharing this poem. xo
Irene, I love your idea that poems are a way to fill readers with “astonishment and wonder.” Figuring out exactly how to do that is the trick, right? Thank you for sharing these thoughts.
Yes, this is a beautiful poem. To take in what we love, the whole orchard, seems to me the heart of full, joyful living. I heard someone say one time that when we stand before something beautiful and find gratitude for it (rather than envy) we take into our own heart the transcendent beauty of that thing. It becomes part of who we are. I am going to my kitchen counter and take in “the round jubilance of peach.”
An excellent question. What is a poem. I guess you know it when you see it.