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.
Essence by Pearl Buck, novelist and humanitarian
“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, Pearl Buck, felt the same.
June 26th was the anniversary of Pearl Buck’s birth in 1892 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, poet and a human rights activist. She was black-listed because of her advocacy work and the values reflected in her writing. 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. It is now out of print. The book is titled Words of Love. It is gracefully illustrated with Asian art by Jeanyee Wong and was published by The John Day Company, the publishing firm founded by Ms. Buck’s second husband. Occasionally copies are available on Amazon.
I view Ms. Buck – I started reading her books when I was twelve – as a sort of spiritual mother, so I felt fortune smiled when I found a copy of her one book of poetry in a used bookstore some years ago. In brief, eloquent, deft strokes, the poems do indeed express the themes of her novels.
Words of Love by Pearl S. Buck.
A few 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.”
Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. Currently I run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded. I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers.
My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, Second Light, I Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman.