Livesay’s “For the New Year?

Though I’ve heard it argued rather convincingly that poetry about poetry should be banned, Dorothy Livesay has a couple of poems about poetry I liked quite a lot. My favorite is


Stamped in the throat
bird song
biologists say
is inevitable
as that beak that eye
that red wing
is not learned
is born with the bird.

Perhaps then there’s another
dimension behind our learned
word patterns …
perhaps an infinite song
sways in our throats
yet to be heard?

This poem strangely reminds me of the first poem I ever willingly memorized, Hardy’s “The Darkling Thrush“ which may partially explain my affinity for it.

Of course, my recent fascination with bird photography has also attuned my ear to the complex bird songs that fill the wilderness air, and it’s not hard to imagine that the beauty of these songs attracts mates to the same extent it attracts human listeners.

Could it perhaps be true that each of us has an “infinite song? waiting to be heard, that we’re all poets waiting to burst forth in song?

4 thoughts on “Livesay’s “For the New Year?”

  1. Great find Loren. I think your question, if not rhetorical, can be answered with an enthusiastic, “YES!”.

  2. That might be the wisest thing I’ve read all year, Loren. I think the proper response to the world is one of pure and electrifying wonder. It’s because we’re numb to the world’s beauty that entertainment has become more and more sensational– just to get us to react. If we’re imprinted with a call to speak, it is an imprinting that presumes our natural awe. The speech is praise and the voice humble.
    Thanks for your marvelous insight.

  3. 1) The playwright Pirandello has a similar line. One of his characters says (in Six Characters) “How can we ever communicate, when all we have is this pitiful language…?” (bearing in mind that the premise of the play is that playwright could not finish it, so characters struggle to do it..)

    2) So does Ugo Betti (Italian philosopher) who said
    (roughly) “perhaps only you, you alone, can hear me and not laugh…” –this is from memory so the actual may vary slightly.

    3)Edward Sapir (linguistics)was known for a theory that speech (in its origins) was/is the body’s attempt to articulate in the throat what gesture itself is unable to achieve…

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