I just returned from teaching a poetry class for a week in the woods of Mendocino. It felt wonderful to be among words and redwoods, opening to both. Here are some thoughts from Dorianne Laux, a wonderful poet. Years ago at Flight of the Mind, [a woman’s writing retreat in Oregon] I studied with her:

Dorianne Laux  Why do I write?

…I work to find my subject, something I can sink my teeth into. I live for that flaring up of language, when the words actually carry me, envelope me, grip me. And all the above is why I read poetry, to hear the truth, spoken harshly or whispered into my ear, to see more clearly the world’s beauty and sadness, to be lifted up and torn down, to be remade, by language, to become larger, swollen with life.

I write to add my voice to the sum of voices, to be part of the choir. I write to be one sequin among the shimmering others, hanging by a thread from the evening gown of the world. I write to remember. I write to forget myself, to be so completely immersed in the will of the poem that when I look up from the page I can still smell the smoke from the house burning in my brain. I write to destroy the blank page, unravel the ink, use up what I’ve been given and give it away. I write to make the trees shiver at the sliver of sun slipping down the axe blade’s silver lip. I write to hurt myself again, to dip my fingertip into the encrusted pool of the wound. I write to become someone else, that better, smarter self that lives inside my dumbstruck twin. I write to invite the voices in, to watch the angel wrestle, to feel the devil gather on its haunches and rise. I write to hear myself breathing. I write to be doing something while I wait to be called to my appointment with death. I write to be done writing. I write because writing is fun.

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…When the Sufi poet whirled, was he looking            

outward, to the mountains so solidly there

in a white-capped ring, or was he looking

to the center of everything: the seed, the egg, the idea

Mevlevi Sema

that was also there,

beautiful as a thumb

curved and touching the finger, tenderly,

little love-ring,

as he whirled,

oh jug of breath,

in the garden of dust?

<>  <> excerpt from

Where Does the Dance Begin, Where Does it End ~ by Mary Oliver

-from Why I Wake Early (2004)  <>

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