Poet’s Note

The only thing I know about poetry is that if I go into a poem assuming I know what it’s about, I’m going to be proven wrong if I stick with it long enough. That and the language is only alive if it is an expression of the body as well as the mind. “A poem is a walk,” that’s what A.R. Ammons says, and of course he’s right. Wordsworth knew this better than most, and it’s from “Tintern Abbey” that I first learned that “an eye made quiet by the power / Of Harmony, and the deep power of joy, / [may] see into the life of things.” For reasons that are as obscure as they are profound, somehow the walk, the drive, the journey that is its own destination—especially one that traverses well-known terrain—is just the thing one needs to quiet the Wordsworthian eye. I find it striking that the creator of a breakthrough technique for treating posttraumatic stress, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), was inspired by a walk in the park: she found the biological rhythms of the walk, particularly the back-and-forth movement of her eyes as they scanned the path ahead, brought her a sense of tranquility that even her most troubling memories, when she conjured them up for consideration, were unable to break. So hop in, the poem says, let’s go for a drive. Who knows where we’ll wind up from there?