I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how he or she spends the day.
January 1, 2017: Sawnie Morris
I discovered the poetry of Sawnie Morris in Poets & Writers. Her debut collection, Her, Infinite, won the New Issues Poetry Prize (after being a finalist in fifteen other contests) and was published in March of last year when Sawnie was 61.
If we are called to write–and love is the true measure of any calling–then it is joyful duty, even in struggle.
Major Jackson, who selected Her, Infinite as the winning manuscript, described the collection as “a ceremony of tantalizing music.” The experiences underlying the poems occurred during the years in which Sawnie and her husband founded and were working for an environmental-advocacy organization–with the oldest poems in the collection dating to the mid 1990s and the most recent to 2012. Given the current political situation, I’m especially proud that Sawnie will start this series off for the new year.
I adore the following description of the book, which I found on the Bookworks site:
Her, Infinite performs a metaphysical, yet-grounded-in-daily-life ceremony in which the magical properties of language meet with political action. The poems enact a healing, with the poet as note-taker and celebrant, making her way through a labyrinth that begins with community action, conceived in mythic terms, spirals though the intimacies of erotic love and friendship under environmental peril, and returns after a descent that involves self-confrontation as well as surrender to the invisible forces that guide our lives. The speaker in these poems takes the reader on a search for a worldview that can hold both beauty and terror, while singing in praise of creation.
One of the poems in the collection that I keep thinking about is “Cochiti Lake, 1989.” (Click on the link for the full version.) The lines below come after the “I” of the poem goes into the lake for a swim and then invites “you” in with her.
We didn’t know about “impairment,” (the available options). The list:
where we could no longer swim,
where and what we could no longer drink.
We didn’t know about “fluctuating temperature” or “vectors for pathogens.”
We didn’t know about “turbidity,” about “incident light”
and what it might mean to be
“scattered or absorbed” in sediments. What it might mean
Hettie Jones writes about this poem:
Drawn immediately to the imagery in Sawnie Morris’s poem, upon second look I thought that what held me most was its rhythm, the sure line, how the poem used the space on the page to lead the reader in. But as I read “Cochiti Lake, 1989” over and over (aloud, too), I decided that even though all these accomplishments proved unfailingly true, what finally makes this poem work so well, and why I find it so deserving, is its own living presence, its connecting of the personal with the political, the singular to the plural, how it reaches from one breathing body to another.
Toward the end of the poem, there’s this line that still gives me chills:
I, too was once “highly mobile in water.”
Come back on JANUARY 1st to read how SAWNIE MORRIS spends her days.