Thursday, April 4, 2013

Catalogs and Hardware Stores

Cataloging is the fancypants poetic term for list-making, which must explain why I am drawn so frequently to catalog poems. Whitman of course was the master at this, his long lines unfurling like the longest coil of rope you could buy, just running right of the page. I don’t actually know much about the author of today’s poem, Nancy Willard, but her “A Hardware Store as Proof of the Existence of God” is another of my long-time favorites. I can’t remember now where I found it—I’d guess Poetry Daily, where I first really discovered the random loveliness of stumbling something online that you’d never have found otherwise, something that changes your life.

I’m noticing in thinking what to post for Poetry Month that the poems that come first to mind I’ve loved so much I copied them from their books, by hand or with the photocopier, or I printed them out to hang them on the refrigerator or on my office door at work. Something in the act of reproducing the text makes those words more permanent for me. In other words, those favorite poems have the physicality of artifacts, appropriately enough for this jewel of a poem that finds the divine in the aisles in every sod-smelling Ace or Lowe’s. The first few lines:
“A Hardware Store as Proof of the Existence of God”—Nancy Willard
I praise the brightness of hammers pointing east
like the steel woodpeckers of the future,
and dozens of hinges opening brass wings,
and six new rakes shyly fanning their toes,
and bins of hooks glittering into bees . . .
Willard evokes the sacred potentiality of the hardware store, every Phillips-head screwdriver or pack of Sweet William seeds waiting for the breath of the divine—in our hands and work—to bring this new world awake.