“One merit of poetry few persons will deny: It says more and in fewer words than prose.” Voltaire
So often I have the idea for a story that ends up in a poem instead. Poetry is such an efficient medium and economically captures the essence of what I want to say, which is always – no matter what the story – an expression of love. It was interesting to me to discover that one of the novelists I admire most, Pearl Buck, would agree.
Born on June 28, 1892 in the United States in Virginia, Pearl Buck was the daughter of missionaries. She grew up in China and spoke Chinese before she spoke English. She was a prolific writer. Of her novels, The Good Earth is probably the best known. To my knowledge, there is only one small book of her poems. It was published in 1974, a year after her death, and is now out of print.
I was fortunate to find a copy Words of Love, in a used bookstore some years ago. In brief, eloquent, deft strokes, the poems do indeed express the consistent theme of Ms. Buck’s novels, love.
Two years ago in an interview with me British poet, Myra Schneider, said this about Pearl Buck’s poem, Essence:
” This spiritual poem is an expression of what Pearl Buck feels is at the heart of living and writing – love. Without it life would have no meaning, nothing to offset the negativity, dangers and fears of living. What I understand too is that in all else she has written, all she has given body and soul to, love is the essence. I’m glad she used the word essence because for me the poetry that really matters – both what I read and what I write – is spiritual poetry, poetry which searches below the surface for meanings . This is not say that I write or look for poetry which is very solemn or far removed from the everyday or humorless – rather that I want to explore what lies beneath the ordinary, what raises it, makes it not ordinary.”
I give you the books I’ve made,
Body and soul, bled and flayed.
Yet the essence they contain
In one poem is made plain,
In one poem is made clear:
On this earth, through far or near,
Without love there’s only fear.
– Pearl Buck
* * * * * * *
Poets Writing Across Borders
THE STRANGEST OF THEATRES
“Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
It is right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?”
– Elizabeth Bishop, Questions of Travel
THE STRANGEST OF THEATRES is a collection of essays by contemporary American poets about their forays into the world beyond U.S. borders. The essays reflect on home, identity and alienation. The poets include Naomi Shihab Nye, Nick Flynn, Philip Levine, and W.S. Merwin. The collection closes with a panel discussion of fourteen writers. It also provides information on traveling, living and writing abroad including fellowships and grants, residencies, translating, and teaching and volunteer opportunities.
The Strangest of Theatres is published by the premier American poetry publisher, The Poetry Foundation, and McSweeney Press. Download HERE.
. . . and thus we begin another week . . .
© 2013, essay , Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved, Licensing for online publications is nonnegotiable and requires permission, attribution, link to this site, my copyright, no modification, noncommercial only and does not imply permission to include the work in the site’s printed collections or anthologies.
Photo and illustration ~ Pearl Buck’s photo is in the public domain and it is likely the artwork for the book cover is as well. Myra Schneider’s portrait is copyrighted and used here with permission.