I see beauty in everything. It’s easy for the natural world to bear witness to this: the smell of rain, a bejeweled night sky, the way a fallen leaf curls on the ground.
Defining beauty is as inspiring as it is troubling. Despite the desire to infuse beauty into every poem, poets too are baffled by the challenge. Beauty exists—objectively and subjectively. Beauty can be seen, heard, and felt.
I love the souls who find beauty everywhere. Like in William Carlos Williams’ poem “Between Walls” the speaker describes a particular image, in a passageway by the “back wings” of a hospital. The setting is one of those barely acknowledged places, trashy parts of everyday life in urban societies, a place “where nothing will grow.”
A moment of perception occurs and a glimpse of beauty caught in the seemingly unrelated. Unexpected insights reveal the entirety in the part; we have the grace of being able to experience the segment while simultaneously dreaming of the whole.
Beauty is that elusive bird that I don’t quite believe in, but I have to know is out there, that ivory-billed woodpecker thought to be extinct for 50 years but turns up in the Arkansas hinterlands.
To find beauty I step outside and stay open. I walk, tend wildflowers and vegetables, feed the birds. I watch and wait, then go inside and write haiku and Japanese short forms. I find consolation in the beauty and grace of nature. When I see something beautiful, I want to share it in a poem.
Poetry is a way of speaking directly to the world. It is perhaps the most basic of the arts, as it comes out of the heart of the poet’s experience. Poetry enables the inner life of the artist to be transferred to and shared with the greater world. The shared object is the poem itself. There is no other thing than the poem.
I couldn’t say what constitutes beauty, but on some level beauty constitutes everything. Writing poetry, I don’t feel so much like I’m creating beauty as channeling it, presenting the beauty inherent in the language and the content.
There are moments when beauty suddenly strikes, a new woodpecker at the feeder, the lonely awk…awk…awk of a single goose on a pond, an early morning mist over hundreds of geese on that same pond, the quiet stalking of an egret in a brackish inlet near the sea, a red dawn sky revealed when you pull up the blinds, a row of nearly-blooming cherry trees.
When I first read the lines in Rilke’s Duino Elegies, “…beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror…” I finally found the words for how I experienced beauty.
There was a small stream cutting through our property back Snydersburg Road. When I was nine years old, or so, I found an arrowhead in the gravel by the stream. When I washed it in the water, I could see the delicate flaking of the thing as a network of lights and shimmering darks, and I found this ancient piece of worked stone to be beautiful.
Water, one winter morning, awakens. Dew glistens on fallen leaves. A breeze lays her damp washcloth across my forehead. I’m still in the fever of my boyhood, sweating out cinematic nightmares below the comforter, the ceiling full of green stars.