Here in my little part of the world the lambs are fat in the paddocks, the calves are weaned and noisy and morning and night the big black and white dairy cows trek the way, heads down, to the milking sheds. It's summer here and finally the days are warmer, longer, full of promise.
There's something about this time of year that whispers poetry in my ear. Every Christmas I treat myself to one or two of the books I've been eyeing up for months in the local bookshop. They're usually by New Zealand writers, because I believe in supporting my little country's artists and they're usually poetry. Maybe it's the renewed vigour of the birdsong in the trees, maybe it's the voice of the neighbouring creek, which seems calmer now, more content, but my mind is filled with poetry, the rhythms of words and the sharp, tangy taste of them in my mouth as I read. Early summer is when my blood wakes up and poetry runs in my veins for the start of another year.
Every summer I decide to learn by heart another favourite poem, and recite it to myself when I'm driving over the hills towards town to do the supermarket shopping, or when I'm standing at the kitchen bench squeezing lemons for home-made lemonade. It feels like a diet of nicely-turned words and the truths found in the most delicious of imaginings is just as essential as bread and butter. In fact it is the bread and butter of the writing life, I imagine.
Even if one is not oneself a poet, you cannot help but feed a writerly mind on such fare. Such big ideas in such well-chosen words! A poem can bring tears to my cheeks or have me giggling and dancing in the sunlight. It seems like the secret of life is in there somewhere.
There's no room for the novelist's wordiness in a poem. No room for a non-fiction writer's bare and succinct facts. Yet poems are both fabulously wordy and succinct at the same time. They are the ultimate playtime with words, where usually, I suspect, the words themselves led the poet to the heart of the poem, that emotional resonance they carry inside the words, lines, even the blank spaces, like a kernel in a seed, just waiting to take root in a fertile mind and sprout into something new and wonderful, a tiny little bit of the world glimpsed and for a moment, verbalised.
Just thinking about poetry throws me into the world of metaphor and simile. I go away from reading them with the language almost a physical presence in my body. An hour later I still catch myself thinking in the rhythms and gurgling cadences of the work I have read. After reading a poem, the shadows are that bit more dappled, the sunlight that much warmer against my skin, and the world just that bit more wondrous.
My favourite at the moment is one I've loved all my reading life. It's called The Magpies, by New Zealand writer Denis Glover. Look it up and enjoy it too.