For me, when I read a poem aloud, I find a rhythm as I let the words twirl in the air around me. This can be a powerful experience as waves of new understanding often happen. When I first started reading poetry regularly a few months ago, I had a poetry reading in the bathtub. I was moved to even write a poem about it (not a great poem, but it captured the experience). Now, I know Lynn does not like the idea of reading poetry in the bathtub because she might get a book of poetry wet (she takes special care of her poetry books, which I appreciate), but I say go for it!
I decided to have another reading in the bathtub this evening. I spent time with Kathleen Norris as I read a few poems from her collection Little Girls in Church. This book has been on my shelf for a few years now next to several other books by Norris, yet I had only opened it once or twice. Reading it tonight, I discovered the poem All Saints, All Souls that was written in memory of William Stafford. At first glance I thought, "oh this is interesting...in Stafford's memory." But then, in the second stanza, their relationship of teacher/student/friend became apparent. And this line punched me a bit in the gut: "But you kept me on your radar, BillÂKneel down, you said, explore for the poem." Then I cried my way through the rest. I have cried my way through it several times now. I want to live inside this poem, this memory, this relationship for just a few minutes. And through this poem I can.
In finding the link to the poem, I discovered this incredible project. Had I read this poem when I first purchased this book, I would not have made the connection because I did not even know who William Stafford was a few months ago. And now I feel like I have known him my entire life. How I love this journey into poetry.
I discovered Norris my senior year in college when I read The Cloister Walk in a philosophy class called Education of the Spirit. This book is one of my favorites...ever. My copy has beendog-earedd and has passages underlined and notes throughout. If you have not read it, put it on your library list. The same year I took this class, Norris spoke at St. Mary's College, and because St. Mary's is right across the street from my alma mater, I headed over there to hear her (something tells me we probably got extra credit). She was so darn cool. She spoke about this small book, and I regret to this day that I was too shy to stick around and have her sign my copy. She also received an honorary degree from ND during my graduation ceremony. My college graduation day was a tough one for me because I didn't have a lot of friends who attended my school and the ones I was closest with had graduated the previous year, so I actually sat by myself. Having Kathleen Norris up on that stage just reminded me that I really wasn't alone. And tonight, as I read her words again, and discovered her poem about William Stafford, I took a breath and remembered this once again.
Other Kathleen Norris links:
Norris in a conversation about CS Lewis's The Screwtape Letters (scroll down to #5) that occurred on NPR.
An interview with Norris.