Gardening, particularly organic gardening, is one of my life-long passions, as is poetry, so it’s always delightful to find a poet who shares this passion.
None of them, in my opinion, match Theodore Roethke’s brilliant use of plant imagery in Words for the Wind.
But there are several other poets whose garden imagery I have enjoyed, and Marge Piercy often seems to me to be the best of these poets.
In describing her use of natural imagery in poetry, she says,
Some of my poems are rooted in the landscape, in a relationship to the soil and
the other living beings around me, such as the "Sand roads" sequence, "Kneeling
here I feel good" "Crows," "The first salad of March". These sometimes fuse what
I would define as political feelings with feelings of tenderness and union. As I write
this, three crows look at me from a distance of ten feet. Our communication is not a
matter of words on a page but it works. I am honored by their trust, which is shrewd
and canny. They aim to survive. So do I. None of us like men with guns.
Picking tomatoes this weekend I was reminded of her "The engulfing garden" from The Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flashing.In this poem she returns from a trip only to be buried under:
of luscious ripe tomatoes.
Eighteen quarts of tomato
juice on the evening of the
third day home, tomato seeds
in my hair, tomato skins
in my teeth, the surfaces
of the kitchen heaped with
tomatoes, tomatoes in buckets,
tomatoes lined up on the window
sills, my hands crisscrossed
with canning cuts, even
my dreams are acid,
running and red.
It would be hard to find a better literal description of nature’s abundance and our desperate attempts to come to terms with it.
And, yet, perhaps more importantly, there is a disturbing undertone in the last few lines that suggests our ambivalent feelings towards this over abundance and the resulting acidic dreams running red.
Perhaps they are even more relevant today as we watch pictures of starving refugees filling our television screens.