Saturday, June 09, 2012

`I See a Motion, Not a Form'

We lived a mile as the crow flies from Yaddo, the artist community that adjoins Interstate 87 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. No sign marks its four hundred acres. There, behind an anonymous wall of fir and spruce, some of our best writers worked – Saul Bellow, Flannery O’Connor, J.F. Powers, Philip Roth, Donald Justice, Eudora Welty, John Cheever – and, I’ve just learned, Janet Lewis. The poet and novelist, at the invitation of Yaddo’s director, worked there for a month in May-June 1979. The poem she wrote about the experience, “Geometries, North Studio, Yaddo,” was published as a broadside by Cambria Press in 1980, with a woodcut by Michael McCurdy. In it, Lewis returns to themes she had been addressing for more than half a century – permanence and transience, energy and form, the natural world. The poem begins:  

“I see a motion, not a form,
In the shaggy spruce beyond my window;
Beyond the diamond panes, the doubled triangles,
Trembling with morning light, I see
A branch trembling where there is no wind.”

I’m reminded of that beautiful line from “Paho at Walpi”: “The sunlight pours unbroken through the wind.” “Geometries” concludes with these lines:

“I am bewildered with geometries. Pythagoras,
Say, what do you make of all this,—
These living forms, created, uncreated,
Returning, dissolving,
Haunting Time?”

[I know nothing else about this.]

3 comments:

Jonathan Chant said...

This is a really beautiful poem. Thanks for posting.

ken kurp said...

You're welcome.

Helen Pinkerton said...

Thanks, Patrick, for reminding me of Lewis's "Geometries, North Studio, Yaddo." That line in "Paho at Walpi" has never slipped my mind.