April 14, 2010

Poetry: a reflection of consciousness: An interview with Meredith Dana Paige


The confused calla lily bulbs, having labored
over which direction to grow (it’s a 50/50 chance,
the surface one way and evermore dirt the other)
live only so long in this California winter.  As if
it were my job to take on their struggle, I say
a prayer for the weather to stay right.  While
I’m at it, I pray for the senate to pass healthcare,
for the Bay Bridge to stay structurally sound. I pray
for my great grandmother, who burned in Treblinka,
and for my unborn children, doomed to remember her.

For now they stand, the garden’s strongest flowers,
stems all a tremble in the February rain.  Knowing.

What is poetry?

Poetry observes the world, and in so doing, uses bodies of words to reveal the extraordinary nature of the world – the world of language, the world of the poet, the world of the audience, the world of a specific poem as a specific artifact.  When all the worlds come together, poetry has the power to transcend.  Poetry is about the words/worlds on the page, but it’s also about the experience that prompted the poem, it’s about the experience of reading a poem.

Where does the need for writing poetry come from?

Poetry is like the ultimate action verb; whatever that may be. To poem.  Poetry investigates, questions, examines, explains, observes, comments, creates….poetry tells history.  We need poetry to remind us to investigate, question, create etc.  And when we forget to do these things, we read poetry that does.  It keeps us on our toes.  It keeps us in touch with ourselves, and the world around us.

How does poetry align mind, body and spirit?

A poem invokes mind, body and spirit.  It facilitates the melding of so many principles – the intellectual mind, the emotional mind, the “brain” as organ, the physical body of the poem, the spirit of the poem, the spirit of the soul.  A poem creates a conversation between all these things…

What are the healing properties of poetry?

Writing or reading poems, for me, can be cathartic.  When poetry resonates – it is an incredibly clarifying experience.  I read some poems over and over again, and each time they reveal something different to me.  Poems are living things; they change with you, and they change you, if you bring yourself to them.

How many types of poetry are there?


Where to start when you think you are a poet?

There are a lot of different paths for poets.  When I started to believe I was a poet, I started a manuscript and I used that manuscript to apply to MFA programs.  Which is only one option, but it was the right one for me.  I think MFA programs are fabulous places for poets; they have built-in communities.  And poets need community – big time.  Then start sending your poems out into the world, and hopefully they’ll find a home.

What are the qualities of a good poet?

A  poet just keeps writing…and learns from writing.  Also a good poet learns from reading – not just poetry, everything.

Why does poetry play an essential role in human consciousness?

Because poetry is a reflection of consciousness.

What it is like

The calf is born in winter


by shallow waters
Fifteen feet long

all blood and blubber,

he weighs 2,000 pounds

Mother and son swim north

sprout the surface

hum across the void

From the blue mantle

rapid undulations

beg their notice

Sleek side bodies

abstruse eyes

a severe contrast

in black and white

All are Mother and child–

the whales and killer whales,

the ocean, the surface
Great bodies


the water breaking

in shards around them.

Meredith Dana Page is an English Instructor at Berkeley Community College. She is a poet.

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