From time to time, I temporarily stop writing poetry - or writing it down anyway - which creates lulls in the postings on this blog. Some time ago Gagdad Bob of One Cosmos described his blogging, which is done somewhat like poetry: on the spur of the moment, with little structure but what is intuited, and based on what he has been reading and listening to, as having cycles.
When one looks at the poetry of a man such as W.B. Yeats, it is clear that his work had phases or cycles to it, gradually moving from being mythological and symbolic to being political and lyrical. This didn't happen gradually (though in some sense it did) but in distinct steps, usually corresponding with each of his books.
Usually these cycles are not at all independent from one's ordinary circumstances; in fact, they are often determined by sudden and particular changes in such. I will not belabor you with an extraordinary length of words on this subject.
I myself have just recently come to very much such a circumstance.
It is altogether clear that the birth of my first child marked - or nearly so - the end of my first cycle, which was largely experimental and exploratory. This cycle was aptly named 'The Earth is Flat and the Heavens a Dome' and I have a collection of poems from it that will one day be properly edited and published. The naming is intended to be provocative, but given that I am not a flat-earther, as the Sunday aposticha* says,
"Thou hast made the round world so sure, that it shall not be moved."
it is not an attempt to defend what is a seriously boring and insipid conspiracy theory. Instead, it intends to point out that the earth's flatness and the sky's semi-circularity are the truth of the human world, or of human experience, if you will. The original poem I wrote to defend this thesis was clumsy and over-didactic, and though it remains in the copy I sent to several people, I have replaced it with a more tacit, elegant and evocative poem:
From the level ground
Grow the roots of the mountains
Foothills stand and kneel
Stretching forth as a young cedar
Opens her hands in morning
Breathing with sight
And without sound singing
To the dome of deep heaven.
The use of 'her', as always, in my poetry and writing is specific and intentional since I hold to the old lexical tradition of humans being called simply 'men', and defaulting the pronoun to 'he', in the same sense that 'brethren' does not men a group of males, but a group of 'brothers and sisters'. In this poem however, I have used the female pronoun; this is because humanity, in relation to God, is typologically feminine.
The second cycle has now ended with the lurching forth of both country and person into a new and stormy time. Having been informed of my being laid off from my job at the same moment we're told that, for the first time in seventeen years, our government will shut down its non-critical services, created a sudden disruption in the rhythm which produced my poems. Intuition has led me to believe that this time it is different.
Appropriately, this cycle is/will be called "Gold Smoke and Blue Fire" and whereas the stations of the first were Waking/Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter/Song/Dreaming, a set of recognizable symbols for the human experience, this will likely be divided in to War/Peace/Fast/Feast. Four is the number of the world, and these poems are somewhat more worldly. On the other hand, there is a paradox here - the poems are not so much more of the world, but in the world. If there were a pithy way to express why this is, two words would suffice: "Because family."
These poems are more rhythmic and I have a few more structural patterns that I have developed to try to frame and channel the voice.
This closing of the cycle, one of the turns of the great wheel of my life which must one day cease, should not be cause for dismay, nor will I stop posting poems here. I'm almost recollected of myself and will begin again anew.
I will reprint below the poem which is somewhat didactic, called "Gold Smoke and Blue Fire."
Breath, with intoning of each wordThank you for reading!
Of resonating air in song
No pitch, mere syllable is heard
This music's echo to prolong;
The clay itself is humming, ringing
It shows its perfect instrument
In its ready silence, singing
I am here, I shall be sent;
A wisp of heavy smoke begins
To roil and make effluvium
In rose-laden odor ascends
Strand by golden stand unspun;
And the cool and dancing light
As the Zeon upon the Cup
Smoke by day and fire by night
Now blue-bright is rising up.
Then in a flash we both return
And we are standing somewhere else --
Then repair, O rise and turn
With voice of iron, the call of bells.
*Aposticha are short hymns in the latter part of the service of lamplighting, Vespers. They proceed outwards and end with the Nunc Dimittis, "Lord, now let thou thy servant depart in peace", which is the Canticle or Song of St. Symeon the Elder that he exclaims when holding the infant Christ; that he may finally die in peace.