Poetry, the only father, landscape, moon, food, the bowl
of clam chowder in Nahcotta, was I happy, mountains
of oyster shells gleaming silver, poetry, the only gold,
or is it, my breasts, feet, my hands, index finger,
When I attended a Zoom reading given by Diane Seuss there was a woman visible on my screen in the audience who went into ecstatic raptures throughout each poem. She clutched her heart, bowed her head, threw it back to expose her neck, made prayer hands, touched her mouth with them. I can’t forget that.
Her responses reminded me of growing up in an Episcopal Church which contained all varieties of worship styles. My mother was very low church. She never taught me to have an emotional response to the sacraments and symbols presented during the service. When the deacon carried the big cross for the gospel reading, other people crossed themselves with a fervor and depth of love that I didn’t understand, but envied. I remembered this when I listened to Diane Seuss read and watched the woman whose head was right above mine in the grid of participants.
As far as I know, there are no recommended ritualized gestures for a poetry reading except for the snap which I consider inadequate for conveying deep emotion. I’m making my way through the book slowly, which means I’m making my way through suffering and loneliness and abandonment and finding evidence of life’s mercies. This collection tunes me into my own humanity, reminds me of my own loneliness, the times I did not think I deserved to live. Seuss has traveled through hard and desperate times. Her book was written from the other side of them. Though church leaders may disagree with my use of these terms, I find that Seuss’s poems describe a kind of resurrection into her own power and grace. Because of this, I am not surprised that when the unknown woman heard these poems read aloud by the poet she was filled with awe.