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Sunday, February 19, 2012

A List of Praises

(Anne in a Striped Dress, 1967, a painting of
today’s poet by her husband, Fairfield Porter,
1907-1975, American Representational painter)

Anne Porter (1911-2011) was a late-bloomer. She began writing her poetry early on in life but it wasn’t until she was 83 years old that her first collection of poems was published, 94 when one of her poems was included in The Oxford Book of American Poetry, and 95 when her second volume of poems came out.

In an interview, she explained why she continued to write as she got on in years. In old age, she said, “you can’t sing anymore, you can’t dance anymore, you can’t drive anymore — but you can still write.”


Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,
Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,
Mad with the joy of the Sabbath,
Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,
Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes,
A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry
Living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods,
At night give praise with starry silences.

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls
And the rattle and flap of sails
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor.
Give praise with the humpback whales,
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.

Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas,
Give praise with hum of bees,
Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.
When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries
We know that the winter is over.

Give praise with mockingbirds, day’s nightingales.
Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle
And glossy tulip trees
On quiet side streets in southern towns.

Give praise with the rippling speech
Of the eider-duck and her ducklings
As they paddle their way downstream
In the red-gold morning
On Restiguche¹, their cold river,
Salmon river,
Wilderness river.

Give praise with the whitethroat sparrow.
Far, far from the cities,
Far even from the towns,
With piercing innocence
He sings in the spruce-tree tops,
Always four notes
And four notes only.

Give praise with water,
With storms of rain and thunder
And the small rains that sparkle as they dry,
And the faint floating ocean roar
That fills the seaside villages,
And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains

And with this poem, a leaf on the vast flood,
And with the angels in that other country.

¹Restiguche – a river that flows through parts of New Brunswick and Quebec


BrightSoul said...

This is such a lovely airy and light. She is right, one cannot do many things...even write sometimes, but one can always PRAISE the Maker...

Charles Van Gorkom said...

Wow, what a waterfall of overflowing praise! This is good for the soul!