THE POWER OF POETRY

POWER OF POETRY #108: ERIK FUHRER

Big bangs crack worlds into being and progress eliotically whimpers death into the bright light of a continuously receding ozone. Years ago, Tim Morton announced the end of the world has already begun— at the time when humans became a geological force— the anthropocene: a blurry epoch, as all epochs are, because we can’t possibly ingest something so large. Perhaps an epochalypse is spreading and we are its kin, having birthed it.

Where were you when you first met the apocalypse
What poem were you reading
Don’t name a T.S. Eliot poem
Name a poem without the apocalypse in it
Hope that such a poem exists

(Erik Fuhrer, “Stonehenge”)

Sometimes world endings are blinks rather than the decades long glances of climate change. I imagine a lot of us are continuously blinking these days, trying to bring into focus a world that has slipped away from us. The end of the world is a collective experience at the same time as it is a series of tiny, personal apocalypses, that we carry around with us, altering the way we move through the future. We carry the burdens of the old world into the new, and these burdens were never equal— some become essential in a world in which they were once thought expendable— and essential, in precarious times, translates into unsafe.

I’m, you know, still here,
tulip, resin, temporary—

(Jean Valentine, For love,)

Paradoxically, staying home and isolating, has become an act of care— we are all still here between the panes, our bodies planting into the soil of our own anxiety— and those of us who can’t, those of us scattered among the soiled air, are holding care in our hands, hoping it’s not a poison. Love tulips differently in a time of precarity, and love often leaves some something behind.

It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

(Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art”)

Loss is palpable these days, but so is our focus on what surrounds that loss— the bones of the scaffolding holding up our individual worlds come suddenly into focus— so that the new worlds are in part our old words, thrown into relief. This can be as quietly revelatory as it can be painful—we don’t all have the luxury of time or space or safety for self discovery during these times. Privilege is a skeleton that most of us ignore at the foot of our closet door.

I am the one whose love
overcomes you, already with you
when you think to call my name. . . .

(Jane Kenyon, “Briefly It Enters and Briefly Speaks)

I wish there was a way to say with surety that poetry can wing us into this new world. Yet, that seems too grandiose. Words sometimes seem too ambitious at times like this, especially at times when hope is important but I don’t know exactly where to look for it. Perhaps all we can do right now is to listen to one another more deeply, even when that voice is but an echo of a past whisper. To keep as safe as we possibly can. And to remember that everything, at some point, is temporary.

My life can pass like this
Waiting for beauty
Tomorrow- I say
A life is a thing you have to start

(Solmaz Sharif, “Beauty”)


Erik Fuhrer is the author of 4 books, including not human enough for the census (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2019). His 5th book, in which I take myself hostage, is forthcoming from Spuyten Duyvil Press later this year. He can be found at erik-fuhrer.com and on twitter @erikfuhrer.

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