I thought that the substance of poetry
does not lie in the sound value of the word,
nor in its colour, nor in the metric line,
nor in the complex of sensations, but in
the deep pulse of the spirit; and this deep
pulse is what the soul contributes, if it
contributes anything, or what it says, if it
says anything, with its own voice, in a
courageous answer to the touch of the world.

Antonio Machado
Introductory piece for Soledades, Madrid, 1917

It is this “deep pulse”, I think, this resonance, this courage to put one’s inner-self out there, responding deeply to “the touch of the world”, that has oft-inspirited Angela Locke, a poet friend of mine, with exquisite poems that “came to me complete.”

… so we turn and turn
the atoms of the world in the sea’s hand
in the wind’s hand in form and gravity
and fire
atom and atom
so we love and from our loving
from the drawing of the deep earth place
some god    some creator
some mathematician
draws down

the beginning
of the rose

Angela Locke
from Rose and Stone
Whale Language: Songs of Iona

And that is why I come before poetry in reverence and in awe.



Nuestras vidas son los rios,
que van a dar a la mar,
que es el morir. ¡Gran cantar!

“Our lives are rivers
and rivers flow and move to the sea,
which is our dying.” Marvellous lines!

Among the poets I admire
I love Manrique the most.

A sweet voluptuousness of living:
tough knowledge of leaving,
blind flight to the sea.

After the fright of dying.
the joy of having arrived.

Great joy!
But – the terror of returning?
Great grief!

Antonio Machado
translated by Robert Bly

Castilian poet Jorge Manrique was meditating upon metaphors in the 1460’s when he penned Coplas a la muerte de su padre (Verses on the death of Don Rodrigo Manrique, his Father).

Life – like rivers that flow and move to the sea.

I’ve been watching rivers do that this week – keeping company with a poet of the 1400’s, and with another, Antonio Machado, who was born in 1875 and who died in 1939, and with another, Robert Bly, who translated him, and with my wife, and with friends and acquaintances, and with a host of unknown persons, flowing in their hundreds and thousands.

Flowing rivers, all of us, making intricate but temporary little artworks in the constantly washed, and shifting, and warmed white sand. All of us flowing towards the great sea from whence we came. And sometimes in the watching the heart aches for the beauty of it all, and for the poignancy of the departing. But there is to be a joy in arriving, and then, keeping empathetic company with Lazarus, we shall doubt that we want to return.

Poets across the ages unite ages unto eternity.