Wednesday, March 4, 2009


My love affair with words began many years ago.

My parents have always been avid readers. My father is a big science fiction fan, as well as a reader of assorted locomotive, car, airplane, and motorcycle books that have always inhabited our house. My mother has always read fantasy, mystery, and assorted books on a million different topics, whatever happened to be of interest to her at the time.

When I was young, they read to me. Children's books, the newspaper. Poetry. The written word was (and is) an ever present member of our household.

And do I love the written word! Words dance, they twine around each other, create beautiful images, patterns, forms. Words have souls.

Poetry always held a certain fascination for me, and now holds a special place in my heart. When I was about eight I memorized The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. I wasn't even a strong reader at that time, but my mother helped me with the words I wasn't sure of, and I read it, re-read it, recited it endlessly. To this day I know it by heart.

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old in door.

I've heard poetry compared to paintings, and it's an apt description. Words can be rather like brush strokes, painting out pictures in your mind.

The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson was always another favorite, although I've never fully memorized it. In evocative verse, it tells the story of a fairy woman brought down by love.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She looked down to Camelot
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side:
"The curse is come upon me" cried
The Lady of Shalott

When I got slightly older, and became very interested in the world of Faery, I fell in love with The Stolen Child, by W. B. Yeats.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands, and mingling glances,
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap,
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles.
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away! O, human child!
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than
you can understand.

It's only relatively recently I started reading and appreciating less traditional forms of poetry, and my newest favorite is Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town by E. E. Cummings.

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

I love the layers in the above poem (you'd have to read all of it to appreciate it), and how it feels both complex and simple at the same time.

Of course, my love of words is not limited to poetry alone. I also love quotes, short bites of words both beautiful, funny, and profound. And lyrics, song lyrics are lovely.

Some of my favorite lyrics come from the song Hallelujah, written by Leonard Cohen, although I like K.D. Lang's version best.

Baby I've been here before,
I know this room, I've walked this floor,
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch,
Our love is not a victory march,
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah!

One of my favorite bands of all time is Rise Against, not only for their musical skills, but also for their wonderful (and extremely political) lyrics.

When faith alone is not enough to keep our heads barely above
We look for a reason and come up empty handed,
And when our children fight our wars while we sit back just keeping score
We're teaching murder not understanding, now...

We're setting the fires to light our way,
Burning it all to begin again,
With hope in our hearts, and bricks in our hands,
We sing for change!

Another passion of mine has always been BOOKS! When I was young it wasn't uncommon for me to read three or four novels in one day! My all time favorite novel would definitely have to be The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. His writing is enchanting, strange, heart wrenching and haunting. That story will stay with me for the rest of my life. I should let you know that the story is narrated by Death, which will probably make the below excerpt make more sense. If I owned the book, I'd find one of my favorite excerpts, but since I don't, this one will suffice.

I could introduce myself properly, but it's not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.

At that moment, you will be lying there (I rarely find people standing up). You will be caked in your own body. There might be a discovery; a scream will dribble down the air. The only sound I'll hear after that will be my own breathing, and the sound of the smell, of my footsteps.

And my love of books is not limited just to fiction, either, as you probably know from seeing how often I quote Jensen. ;-) His writing is impassioned, fascinating, and often poetic.

As a longtime grassroots environmental activist, and as a creature living in the thrashing endgame of civilization, I am intimately acquainted with the landscape of loss, and have grown accustomed to carrying the daily weight of despair. I have walked clearcuts that wrap around mountains, drop into valleys, then climb ridges to fragment watershed after watershed, and I’ve sat silent near empty streams that two generations ago were “lashed into whiteness” by uncountable salmon coming home to spawn and die.

And this video, of an excerpt from Endgame vol 2. read by Jensen, is a beautiful piece about the interconnectedness of all life.

As usual, I had no clue where I was going with this post, but I've greatly enjoyed writing it. Over two days, I dug around in poetry books, read aloud to empty rooms, cherished each word as it left my lips. I love words. I hope you can see their beauty, too.



  1. I will have to come back and visit, but I'm almost sure I love it over here. : ) All the beautiful and glorious words, are making my heart go thump. : )

  2. This morning we were having a family discussion about global warming, peak oil prices, religion, etc. etc. etc. and at some point we were talking about anarchy and what it means. I asked my parents if they had heard of Derrick Jensen (because you quote him so often :) and they said "YES!" and apparently he was just speaking in our city a few days ago!!! There was even an article in the newspaper about him, and my jaw dropped. Well....DAMN! How the heck could I miss seeing him speak?! Now I'm really upset, because it would have been the coolest thing to see him live. Oh well, next time I guess......haha, anyway, I have no idea where I'm going with this comment, but the whole situation this morning made me think of you :)

  3. Thank you for inspiring me to look into poetry more! I too love words and books, reading is one of my very most favourite things to do, and has always been. But poetry has always been a bit of an unexplored land for me. I don't think I've come across poetry that has really spoken to me, deeply, but the bits n pieces you have posted have whet my appetite and I plan to look into those writers and full poems. It's great that your parents instilled a love of reading into you. I hope Indigo loves reading too, when she's older.

  4. Christina: Thanks so much! :-D It makes me very happy to *hear* that. :-)

    Stella: Aww, shame you missed him! But yes, there will probably be other opportunities to see him. He seems to do events fairly often in the US. Shame he hardly ever comes to Canada... *sighs*

    Nalin: I hope you find some poetry that really speaks to you! It can be truly wonderful. :-) And yes, I'm very happy I grew up in a household that loved words so much!