Thursday, April 9, 2015

Poetry, Constraint, Art, & Native Plants

My poetry students go nuts when I make them write a sonnet or villanelle or in blank verse -- it's so constraining, so limiting, so awkward, so forced. How can they possibly express themselves in just 144 syllables with meter and rhyme? Eventually, some get it and let go, and when they do they learn far more about the English language, the sound and sense, the depths of knowledge and art that happen, and soon realize it's not a constraint at all -- it develops and explodes their writing in any form. Without precision there can be no effective writing. In free verse, the writing can be too sloppy, too loose, loses the image, the metaphor, the sound, the best word in the best place. This is how I think of gardens, and especially native plant gardens. Using 100% native plants is not limiting, but limitless. When you play with the form and sound and color of the plants, combined with the rich diversity of wildlife that come in an ecological design mimicking natural landscapes, you play with a language that sets life free on many levels and you come to know the world in a rich way. You cannot know an art or a place without understanding the many little intricacies that brought it into being -- and when you do that you begin to transcend the self and connect in a way that brings us into a web of life, not a hierarchy of life. 

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