Saturday, July 5, 2008


Here’s one I just found online and I really like a lot. Maybe it’s because I’m such a positive, sun-shine-y person. Obviously.

By Jane Hirshfield

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.
A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers, mitochondria, figs--all this resinous, unretractable earth.

I read the first line and thought I was reading a dull poem about overcoming struggle or lost love or something like that. Boring, I thought. But then the second line hit me like pillow in the face. What an amazing image, “the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam returns over and over to the same shape.” That is so brilliant and so true. It’s quite impressive to note how stubborn, how “resistant,” the foam of a pillow or a mattress truly is.

Then the poem turns into a simple statement of nature. The “blind intelligence” of trees and leaves turns slyly into the grown of other creates (“turtles, rivers, mitochondria, figs”); I was not expecting the author to connect the ideas of resilience and optimism with those of evolution and geology. The leaps from the first line are surprising and yet easy to connect, which is a very difficult combination of elements.

So I have to wonder why the poem is titled as it is, rather than “Resilience” or something like that. Are trees being “optimistic” when they move their leaves to face the sun? It’s one think to ascribe intelligence to plants, but to give them emotions is a bit of a stretch. So if that’s not it, then what am I missing? When things are not working out, we move on and create something else? I guess that seems logical.

I’ve heard of Jane Hirshfield, and even read a few of her poems in various magazines, but this poem makes me wonder if I’ve missed something somewhere. I’m going to be looking up a few more of her poems soon.

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