A friend, a high school art teacher, had one of her students paint a portrait of her -- not of her bodily self but a still life of the seven possessions that she felt best defined her. Since that time, more than seven years ago, I have been trying to decide what my seven objects would be. How might I portray me?
An article in today's NY Times, "Stuff that Defines Us," reminded me that I have neglected that project. The article tells of the British Museum's ambitious and fascinating project to choose 100 objects from their collection to summarize the history of the world.
Such challenges appeal to both the mathematician in me and the poet in me. To say the most, accurately, in seven objects -- or 100. An invigorating challenge.
Unable thus far to make my list of seven objects, today I compromised, limited my choice horizons. I would choose my seven favorite lines of poetry. I did this -- in a few quick minutes -- and I present them below. Brought to mind quickly, they leave much forgotten -- but they are a start. They do not include Denise Levertov or June Jordan or Derek Walcott. Others, too, deserve a place. But perhaps fast is best; and perhaps I will catch a new glimpse of self, mirrored in these lines.
I lift mine eyes unto the hills
How does your garden grow?
I make my magic / of forgotten things
I learn by going where I have to go
Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid
As truth can live with right and wrong
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
(Lines are from the Book of Psalms, Mother Goose, Muriel Rukeyser, Theodore Roethke, Adrienne Rich, E E Cummings, and Dylan Thomas.)
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