I love to discover a new writer who leaves me feeling as if I have just unwrapped a precious new gift. This is one of the reasons I enjoy reading anthologies of short stories or poetry. It's like speed dating or a tasting menu, you don't have to worry about the consequences of a long-term commitment, trying to find a convenient excuse to go home or staring longingly at your friend's meal.
Discovering a writer that I had not read before is unwrapping an unexpected and valuable gift. Bruce Weigl is a recent discovery of mine. I read one of his poems, and then another, and I knew I wanted to read all of his work. I see in his poetry an economy of words that belie the richness of images he creates. I like to form an idea of the writer through reading their work, then learn about them. It is essential to engage with the person, their background and aims in order to fully engage with their work.
I formed an image of a poet who contemplates, sees things clearly, and acts with deliberation. The word "Buddhist" sprang to mind. Imagine my sense of satisfaction when, in conducting a cursory research into Weigl, I discovered that he does have a Buddhist practice. According to him, his experience fighting for the American army in Vietnam as an 18-year-old both, "ruined my life and in return gave me my voice” The Circle of Hanh, 2000), and I certainly hear the "wounded warrior" throughout his work, a perspective with which I am familiar as some who has lived and worked with veterans.
In admiration, here are a few of Bruce Weigl's exquisite poems. Look at how Weigl uses language, builds imagery, employs repetition, and evolves his theme over the poem. Pick an element of his writing that you will incorperate into your own this week.
Home - Bruce Weigl
I didn’t know I was grateful
for such late-autumn
yellow in the after-harvest
sun before the
cold plow turns it all over
I didn’t know
I would enter this music
that translates the world
back into dirt fields
that have always called to me
as if I were a thing
come from the dirt,
like a tuber,
or like a needful boy. End
lonely days, I believe. End the exiled
and unraveling strangeness.
Dead Man, Thinking - Bruce Weigl
Snow geese in the light of morning sky,
exactly at the start of spring. I was
looking through the cracks of the blinds at my future which seemed
absent of parades, for which I was grateful,
and only yesterday
I watched what an April wind could do
to a body wrapped in silk,
though I turned my eyes away,
the way the teacher says,
once the beauty was revealed.
How long it takes to die, in the fifty-fifth year
is what I thought about today.
I told some truths so large, no one could bear to hear them.
I bow down to those who could not hear the truth.
They could not hear the truth because they were afraid
that it would open a veil into nothing.
I bow down to that nothing. I bow down to a single red planet
I saw in the other world’s sky,
as if towards some
I bow down to the red planet. I bow down
to the noisy birds, indigenous to this region.
Only sorrow can bend you in half
like you’ve seen on those whose loves have gone away.
I bow down to those loves.
A valuable way to develop as a writer is to be a voracious reader and devourer of creative work. Take the week to "supplement" your creative diet by intentionally seeking out and soaking up art over the next few days. Read aloud a poem or selection by a writer you admire before sitting for 5 minutes and commencing your writing practice.
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