Poetry Friday: A Cherishing So Deep

h1 November 14th, 2008 by jules

I’m falling back on an old favorite today for my turn for Poetry Friday, as in one of my favorite poems. Ever.

I’ve been thinking again this week about the hustle and bustle of our lives. And, as a result, I went looking yesterday for my copy of What the Living Do: Poems (published in ’98) so that I could re-read the poem for which the anthology is named. This was Marie Howe’s second poetry anthology (I see she has a new one this year that I’m going to have to hunt down), a beautiful anthology of spare, intimate poems, primarily about the death of her beloved brother, John. Though many of the poems are about grief, elegies to those she has loved and lost, Howe has described the anthology in this way: “Each of {the poems} seems a love poem to me.” Indeed, underlying every poem is a joy, a deep reverence for life.

The first I time I read this poem, the room spun around a bit and I had to collect myself afterwards. Because Howe nails. it. This is what we do.

I take my chances by posting it in its entirety instead of breaking your reverie by making you have to go to another link.

Yat-Yee Chong is hosting Poetry Friday today over here. Enjoy.

20 comments to “Poetry Friday: A Cherishing So Deep”

  1. Oh, jules, how beautiful. How precise and lovely and bittersweet. How perfect. Thank you for this.

  2. The weird thing is that I *get* this so much… you don’t often say it when you feel it, that “this is what people do” kind of feeling, but you feel it. This was so neatly and compactly said… I love it.

  3. Stunning. I’d read it again, but I might weep.

  4. I like that one, too. Thanks, Jules. Do you think the last “I remember you” is about the speaker or the person the speaker is missing? To me, it could be either.

  5. Susan, I’ve always read it as the latter (the person the speaker is missing), particularly since there’s that noun of direct address: “Johnny”…and I know from the rest of the anthology that Johnny is her brother (who died of AIDS)…BUT what a lovely thing about reading poetry together that you can throw that interpretation out there, ’cause, yes, it’s altogether possible she’s saying that, too, even with that “Johnny” at the beginning. That never even occurred to me, but it gives the poem an all-new meaning.

    And with the other meaning, the one I’ve always read into…well, it just slays me. This is another good response to the “how should we live” question. Or at least I think.

    I’m so bummed that both libraries that I use don’t have a copy of her new ’08 anthology, so I might have to go purchase it. There’s an excerpt from that new anthology here, the poem “Prologue.”

  6. Jules, how wonderful this is. (No wonder it smacked you personally so hard, still so soon after your Oct. 10 Poetry Friday post.)

    Fwiw, I read the last line as being spoken by the narrator, in her mind, in the voice of Johnny: seeing herself (in the window glass of the store) as Johnny must have seen her, suddenly aware of how desperately he must miss her as well.

    “Gripped by a cherishing so deep”: omigosh that phrase itself grips.

    Thanks for posting this.

  7. This poem hurts. Thank you for posting it.

  8. So beautiful and touching. Thanks for the heads up on this poet, and for sharing one of your favorites from the anthology. I know why the room spun for you.

  9. Oh, thankyou thankyou thankyou for including that poem in its entirety. I love not having to click away for the rest. And some poems NEED to be seen unbroken, don’t they. They simply must be read all in one go.

    Wonderful. I feel as though I saw a film in my head, spinning wildly fast.

  10. Wow. That is powerful. Thank you.

  11. The power in those lines, Your mind just hangs on to each image. I am going to have to read more of this poet. Thank you.

  12. Jules, it does make sense that she’s talking about Johnny. What the living do is remember those who are gone. But perhaps she’s forgotten herself in her grief.

    Try VU for the new Marie Howe. Surely its big ole library has a copy. I’d be interested to know what you think when you read it.

  13. Oh Susan, heaven bless, I get it now. I had my mind so set on that one interpretation, I see what you mean now. Whoa.

    This is what I love about Howe — her poems are so accessible, yet they’re multi-layered, indeed.

  14. Oh, and thanks to everyone else, too. Sheila, I agree about unbroken poems, but I also take my chances and my fingers are crossed behind my back that I don’t get, say, SUED.


    Thanks, all.

  15. Oh my god, that stopped me in my tracks, What a wonderful poem, so true, so true.

  16. This is perfect.

  17. Hi Jules!

    I got so inspired by the 21 Day Comment Challange that I started my own blog! It’s only my third day, so not much there, but please come by to say hi!

  18. Wow. I could feel the hot coffee on my wrist, hear the car door slamming, and inhabit the chapped face and blowing hair. I love how she makes me get into her mind and feelings by building up tons of physical details. This is gorgeous. Thank you.

  19. I had my library order a copy of this, and I just finally read it – thank you! I might need to buy my own copy now.

  20. Really, I sometimes just want to sleep with this book under my pillow — when I’m hurting the way this hurts. There is a comfort in how beautifully Marie Howe articulates everything that makes us gasp and weep, in life and death. That yearning… I’m so glad you’ve posted this, Jules…

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