Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Morning I Was Born: A Month in Poems, by Meg Hutchinson

A month or so ago, I was lucky enough to go to a workshop conducted by Meg Hutchinson, as well as a concert at which she shared several of her poems. At the workshop, she told the story of her mother, the daughter of a famous editor, who always felt too intimidated by the luminaries she had met as a child to try her hand at writing poetry; then one day, she simply decided to write a poem before she went to work. She has now followed that practice for over a decade. In April (National Poetry Month), she sends Meg and others daily exercises to encourage them to write poems. This book consists of poems written one April.

Many of the poems are about Meg's experiences in nature, describing, for example, the woods at night: "You do not know the woods/Til you've wandered them at night/I go there at dusk/So my eyes will adjust to the slowly dying light." She also writes about her experiences with bipolar disorder; these are some of the most moving poems in the collection. One, "Window," ends with the lines "This is the day I saw/The window I'd been stuck behind for years/Had no walls."

While many of the poems are quite serious, others are whimsical or funny. "Theory of What Stars Are" posits that the sky is a blue sheet with small holes cut in it; "Google" is essentially a conversation with the search engine, chastising it for not understanding the quietness of happiness (Google gives her an ad that offers to teach her, a gifted vocalist, how to "REALLY sing"; "The Final Assignment" is a very funny collection of imaginary reviews of Meg's poetry (a psychiatrist writes, "It is not clear whether she is more pleased with her madness or her sanity, but I'm beginning to think the two are inseparable."

The Morning I Was Born is a good collection--and it makes me want to write poems with Meg's mom next April.

Favorite passage/poem:

Three Things

Surviving takes three things:

The willingness to die
The ability to sing
And joy at becoming part of everything again.

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