A co-worker invited me to dinner at her apartment. She mentioned that a few other people were coming and she and her roommates would be serving make-you-own spring rolls. Even though my husband couldn’t make it because he was working overnight, I said yes.
The kitchen smelled marvelous and gradually different bowls appeared on the table. When it was time to dig in, my co-worker leaned in and said, “oh by the way, this is our 3rd Annual Spring Equinox Poetry Party.”
“Wait what?” I ask.
“Yeah, that’s why everyone brought a book of poetry with them.”
Oh gosh. I thought. I feel comfortable making small talk with new people, but this? Poetry party? I am not prepared! Will I have to recite a poem?
After we finish eating, one of the women passes out a poetry book to each person. I open my book in the middle, not knowing where to start. One guy reads a Pablo Neruda poem. It was a rather explicit poem and my giggles chipped away at some of my panic.
Another person shared a poem. Then another.
I flipped through the Mary Oliver book that I was given. I landed on a page with the poem called “The Sun.” I heard myself say, “I have one.” I began to read. I felt my face flush as I got to the half-way point. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at me. When I made it to the end of the poem I heard “Ooooh” and then snapping.
After 3 more poems were read I offered to read another poem. This one I liked better than the first. It was called “Lilies” My 2nd graders are currently studying and writing poems. The other day I had modeled writing a poem about grass blowing in the wind. In “Lilies,” Mary Oliver did a much better job than me. Her words are so beautiful. She wrote the words that I couldn’t find.
Then another girl started reading “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. We each read 2 stanzas and passed the book to the next person in our circle. I smiled to myself. All I could think about was Anne’s performance of this poem in Anne of Green Gables. My mom and sister will laugh when I tell them this.
As I got into my car to drive home I smiled. I didn’t expect this dinner party to turn out like it did. New friends! The surprise Poetry Party! A poet with a new admirer! And a new Amazon purchase!
by Mary Oliver
Have you ever seen
in your life
than the way the sun,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone–
and how it slides again
out of the blackness,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance–
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
as it warms you
as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world–
or have you too