Happy New Year/Poetry Friday (A Bit Early):
In Praise of Zeroes

h1 January 1st, 2009 by jules

Happy New Year to our devoted readers out there! I hope each and every one of you spent New Year’s Eve just as you wanted to spend it and with someone you love.

What better way to usher in the new year than with Naomi Shihab Nye, pictured here, a poet to whom I give my great adoration. I love what she captures in this poem I’m sharing below. Perhaps for some this would be a source of stress, the mass of Only the Things I Didn’t Do’s, as you look back on a year. To me, it’s very freeing. As one of my other favorite poets once wrote (well, singer/songwriter, but I’d argue she’s a poet, too): “The zero in my hand / is nothing to lose / it’s hard to confuse power with love / love with power / everything that I’m not is all that I’ve got.” Hey, you never know when you might need a zero (or simply a big sunny field). I say the first day of a new year is a good time for one. I love how its absence—and those sudden zeroes—shout and leave us a space, as Naomi puts it in “Burning the Old Year,” originally published in 1995’s Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (also mentioned before and once upon a time at 7-Imp). I’ll take those spaces—and what they offer us— over a list of resolutions any ‘ol day. And with gratitude.

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

You can read the rest here.

Tomorrow’s Poetry Friday round-up will be handled by the dynamic duo over at A Year of Reading.

Here’s to beginning again with the smallest of numbers . . .

8 comments to “Happy New Year/Poetry Friday (A Bit Early):
In Praise of Zeroes”

  1. Great poem, from a great poet. I’m so pleased her book made the final list, even though you and I both knew that before today.

    Happy new year, Jules and Eisha!

  2. What a wonderful poem.
    Happy New Year!

    This is the one that spoke to me today, by a poet I’d not yet met:
    At Sea

    by Wendy Mnookin

    At the end of the jetty.

    Where the boats come in. Where the boats go out. At the pile of rocks
    that swallows the sun at the end of the day.

    At the turn of the trail. At the last dune.

    In front of the hot-dog stand. At the door to the pub. By the shanty,
    the shipbuilder’s yard, the discarded yellow boots, the smashed
    clam shells.

    You thought I’d give in to despair.
    But today is today, everywhere I look. And I look everywhere.
    How I love the idea of starting with the smallest numbers: Zero. Nothing.

  3. Oh, I love this one. “Orange swirling flame of days” indeed. Yum!

  4. I love the line “so much of any year is flammable.” Flames consume us and illuminate us, as does each year we live. What a remarkable poem.

  5. LOVE Naomi Shihab Nye. Have you ever seen her in person, at a reading or such? Very much the confident pixie this picture exhibits, but also (like her sometimes-poems, sometimes-prose) eerily graceful. (You probably know of this Bill Moyers interview with her, but just in case…)

  6. P.S. Dang, hit the Submit button too fast — meant to compliment TadMack on that selection… and thanks for the introduction to Wendy Mnookin — a gem previously unknown to me, too!

  7. I love that line about beginning again with the smallest numbers too. And TadMack’s contribution! You draw the greatest comments.

  8. Thanks, you all….cloudscome, your PF entry just made my day, so right back atcha with the love.

    TadMack, I know I already said this, but I love how you dropped off a poem here. We should start doing that for one another on Poetry Fridays. Anyway, thanks. I like it. A lot.

    John, thanks. I think I’ve skimmed that interview before, but I’ll have to read the link in its entirety. And, no, I’ve never seen her at a reading. But I once saw a storyteller recite/more like perform “Kindness” at the WONDERFUL National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. And it blew me away. Probably my favorite poem ever.

    I don’t know what I’d say to her if I ever met her. She strikes me as the kind of person who wouldn’t go for hero worship, but seriously…her poetry has meant a lot to me. I’d be kinda dumbstruck. A good friend of mine met her recently, and I think he told her I said hi (since she and I have corresponded via email before), so that’s the closest I’ve gotten to meeting her in person. Oh, and my daughter once sent Naomi’s mother a drawing (a bit of an explanation is here). I just remembered this. Neat.

    Anyway, I ramble.

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