Thoughts on endings, beginnings: Poet Laureate musings

Below is something I wrote for the editorial column of the latest issue of DMQ Review, just released this weekend. While the essay refers specifically to the poetry in the journal, it is also applicable to poetry in general. As always, feel free to post your response below.

On Endings

Fall has come and gone, the end of the world has come and gone, as has the shortest day of the year, and very soon, possibly before you read this, Christmas and New Year’s will take their places in time past as well. As all the wisdom of the ages suggests, this is how we get to new beginnings, a fresh start, rebirth—even a new year, 2013—through the goings, through the endings.

But not soooo fast. The new issue of DMQ Review brings a selection from the poems we received over the months of fall 2012. Each poem represents some here-and-now, each an expression of lived life caught in words and image. The poems and the poets you meet here, each in their own time and place, have things to tell you if you will give them a few considered minutes of your time. . .

Poetry works to slow time’s passage, to hold a mercurial moment and find its shape in well-chosen language. Though our living comes and is gone, a poet works toward preservation, toward giving experience some enduring presence even as time continues onward. It’s actually magic. One of my favorite examples of this magic laid bare is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, a love poem to a woman now long-dead, but as her lover promises her,

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

“This,” of course, refers to the poem itself, the material of literature that remains outside time until met with a reader. Then it springs back to life and in this way reanimates the woman’s memory in the present. The poem, even Shakespeare’s ardor, begins all over again. And then it ends again. Like I said, magic. Try the same technique with each of the poems you read. Read them aloud if you will. You become a co-creator of the poem as you reanimate time past.

In this way, endings give us a chance to begin all over again.

# # #

Happy endings, happy beginnings, and a Very Happy New Year. I’ll be in Ireland over the New Year and off the grid until my return. I’ll check back in soon.

Sally Ashton
Santa Clara Count Poet Laureate

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