This summer my goal is to focus my energy on writing and gardening. That’s an idyllic combination for me, even though gardening is not my forte. Still, I enjoy the idea of it — no matter that despite my annual attempts, I have not managed to create the symphony of color and bloom that I imagine. (Okay the truth: Weeds feel quite welcome in my backyard garden. They are seldom disturbed and grow happily).
But gardening is one of those things a poet is supposed to be good at. I’m not sure where I got that idea. Maybe because of Stanley Kunitz, whose garden enters his poems and whose seemingly intuitive sense of structure and rhythm defined his famous Provincetown garden. Poets always seem to be gardening. May Sarton had a garden. I’ve been reading Journal of a Solitude in which she writes extensively of her efforts at coaxing plants to grow at her rural New England retreat. Frost farmed. Whitman? I can’t quite picture him actually toiling in a garden. Most of the poets I know as friends have gardens. There are the obvious connections. Writing poems requires weeding of a sort. Taking out what is extraneous, what is not serving the overall plan. Like a garden, a poem benefits from cutting back, pruning. I love Kunitz’s line in The Round about the ‘steamy old stinkpile’ outside his window. What a wonderful metaphor for the composting process necessary to writing: The images, memories, dreams, snippets of conversation, etc. that lodge somewhere in our unconscious, and like the composted banana peels, egg shells and coffee grounds that we leave to decompose in some corner of the garden … somehow magically turn into rich, fertile ground. The stuff from which poems blossom.
This afternoon I drove to a lovely perrenial farm (Baystate Perennials in Whately, Mass) and bought some ornamental grass, bee balm, black-eyed Susans and delphinium. Tomorrow morning I will plant them. Then hopefully I’ll sit at my desk and write.