Clarifying abstraction is something we all do everyday. A fun and invigorating way to do this is to read poetry.These rich pieces of writing are gold mines for the imagination, inviting us to use alternative ways of understanding our experiences. Anne Michaels’ poetry is a perfect example of this; I am certain she will inspire you. Her writing is luminous and jarringly clear. Her plastic ideas on time and space force me to be more creative with my understanding of reality, the best space to be in for thinking of new ways to perform and create stories. In the following poem Memoriam you will see how Michaels gives the sky a mouth and memory an appetite; read it out loud and see what it does to you and your relationship with speaking and feeling, perhaps you will find a conceptual knot that you can only solve with a new theatrical creation.
From: The Weight of Oranges / Miner’s Pond. McClelland & Stewart, 1997. p.20
Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
In lawnchairs under stars. On the dock
at midnight, anchored by winter clothes,
we lean back to read the sky. Your face white
in the womb light, the lake’s electric skin.
Driving home from Lewiston, full and blue, the moon
over one shoulder of highway. There,
or in your kitchen at midnight, sitting anywhere
in the seeping dark, we bury them again and
again under the same luminous thumbprint.
The dead leave us starving with mouths full of love.
Their stones are salt and mark where we look back.
Your mother’s hand at the end of an empty sleeve,
scratching at your palm, drawing blood.
Your aunt in a Jewish graveyard in Poland,
her face a permanent fist of pain.
Your first friend, Saul, who died faster than
you could say forgive me.
When I was nine and crying from a dream
you said words that hid my fear.
Above us the family slept on,
mouths open, hands scrolled.
Twenty years later your tears burn the back of my throat.
Memory has a hand in the grave up to the wrist.
Earth crumbles from your fist under the sky’s black sieve.
We are orphaned, one by one.
On the beach at Superior, you found me
where I’d been for hours, cut by the lake’s sharp rim.
You stopped a dozen feet from me.
What passed in that quiet said:
I have nothing to give you.
At dusk, birch forest is a shore of bones.
I’ve pulled stones from the earth’s black pockets,
felt the weight of their weariness – worn,
exhausted from their sleep in the earth.
I’ve written on my skin with their black sweat.
The lake’s slight movement is stilled by fading light.
Soon the stars’ tiny mouths, the moon’s blue mouth.
I have nothing to give you, nothing to carry,
some words to make me less afraid, to say
you gave me this.
Memory insists with its sea voice,
muttering from its bone cave.
Memory wraps us
like the shell wraps the sea.
Nothing to carry,
some stones to fill our pockets,
to give weight to what we have.
Few buildings, few lives
are built so well
even their ruins are beautiful.
But we loved the abandoned distillery:
stone floors cracking under empty vats,
wooden floors half rotted into dirt;
stairs leading nowhere; high rooms
run through with swords of dusty light.
A place the rain still loved, its silver paint
on rusted things that had stopped moving it seemed, for us.
Closed rooms open only to weather,
pungent with soot and molasses,
scent-stung. A place
where everything too big to take apart
had been left behind.