If you wanted to flatter me when I was twenty, you would ask you to help you analyze a poem. Yeats and the handful of Irish women poets who found their voices at the turn of our own century were my specialty. To be awed by a turn of phrase, struck dumb by an image, transformed by the flow of a stanza… This was my drug. Caffeine and alcohol were welcome companions - poems are best shared in cafes and pubs - but even they weren’t necessary. The English language as crafted by solitary scribes and mothers scribbling between nappy changes were my heroes.
These were the people and the passions that mattered to an American girl who found her own country to vast and crass and disconnected.
And now, I pick a book from the shelf and I’m still transported. Yes, the verses themselves have power - perhaps even more now that I have almost two more decades of loss and love, suffering and survival that helps me understand their resonance.
But I’m also distracted by the person I was, the person who was so free to dedicate herself to words and ideas for their sake alone. I adore her, but I know I could never find my way back to a life spelled out in phrases that only flirt with comprehensibility. Now, it’s about message and clarity and capturing attention that you can never assume is yours for keeps. Poetry is a country I can occasionally visit, but never call home.