03 May

Pattian Rogers: Poetry as the Real Astrology

Or maybe just specific poets. Right now, that person is Pattian Rogers.

Astrology is the Sunday night detritus off our kitchen floor that didn’t whet the dog’s indiscriminate appetite: sticky bits of eggshells, old cracked buttons, paperback dandruff, gray-blonde tumbleweeds of dust and hair, and dead flashlight batteries.  (Previously I thundered that it was just a crock of shit but in retrospect decided that it doesn’t smell or resemble excrement so much as stuff that rolls around or swirls up into interpretive shapes when the wind blows). That’s a metaphor that doesn’t holler down the quibblers so much as lock them in a little elbow room where they’re limited to making interpretive shapes and hoots but no real arguments.  (I think this is also how politicians limit the public voice most of the time. Hmmm. Notes that for future ref.)

This doesn’t mean that we can’t randomly stumble across a piece of writing that resonates so strongly we’re sure it’s either predictive (because, for goddsake, freedom of will is a lot of work) or predetermined (see previous parenthetical). Maybe that writing is your vaguely worded horoscope from today’s paper or one you paid for with high hopes and hard cash.

Or, maybe, you open a volume of poetry by someone like Pattian Rogers, who writes poems about the world in the way only the scientific mind steeped in the fantastic can (which makes them almost overwhelmingly rich). And if the heart in your head is sympathetic to that way of seeing, you sometimes feel like the book was reading and directing not your mind but that heart in your head.

I keep a fat collection of Roger’s work, Song of the World Becoming, at the office. Several times a week I cast it open to a random page and usually get a bite. Today, it was the Success of the Hunt, led with a quote about a white hart from My Antonia. It’s a poem about hunting, about observation, about how the hart and his forest and spore and you in your tracking garb in the cool weather look and smell and what you see, and through those words, how you feel–especially if you’re resonating with enough memory to identify with the poem. It told me what I was hankering for but couldn’t describe after only a couple of stanzas. It wasn’t an idea, thank god. It simply reminded me of how to think and feel in detail about the world I’m describing in story without using prose I felt I should emulate.