September 18, 2013. My wife and I drove from our house in Dieppe, New Brunswick to nearby Sackville, to walk in the Waterfowl Park and have a cup of coffee at an outdoor café. Returning along Main Street to the parking lot where we’d left the car, I became fascinated with Douglas Lochhead’s series of poems that had been attached to light (power?) poles along the way, one for each day of the month of September. They were short poems about the Tantramar Marsh – descriptive, meditative, reflective, impressionistic. I’d like to do something like this, I said to myself.
At home, I wrote the first, titled September 19. The next day I wrote another, titled September 20. Then I read a facebook posting from Shayla Perreault Newcomb, a friend from Moncton now living in Vancouver. She announced that it was “International Book Week” and invited everyone to post a line of poetry or prose in recognition of the importance of books. Take the book “nearest to you,” open to page 52, copy line 5 to facebook. I picked up the book nearest to me – Gilgamesh, in the Herbert Mason translation – opened to page 52 and it was … blank! So that’s what I posted on facebook – a blank line. But it came to me that this is how I could proceed in my endeavor to create a new poem for every day of the month. Choose a book that’s close by, more or less at random, open to page 52, copy line 5, and spend the day finding (inventing, imagining) the poem hidden in that line.
A line from Rilke’s “Requiem For a Friend,” in the Stephen Mitchell translation, echoed in my head. “You had just one desire: a years-long work.” (“Eine lange Arbeit”). So I came to the notion that I will do this for one year, from September 19, 2013 to September 19, 2014. That’s what I’m embarked on.
Will “the force of gravity” (Rilke) call me back?
As to the form that the poems have been taking – I’ll write about this later.