The Bigness of Small Poems – # 25 in a Series – In Praise of the Unfinished by Julia Hartwig

Polish poet Julia Hartwig

Polish poet Julia Hartwig

Feeling the Way

The most beautiful is what is still unfinished
a sky filled with stars uncharted by astronomers
a sketch by Leonardo a song broken off from emotion
A pencil a brush suspended in the air

Julia Hartwig (1921 – ) from In Praise of the Unfinished, trans. John and Bogdana Carpenter, Alfred A. Knopf, 2008

If I could leave this blog post unfinished could it accrue a beauty I do not yet see or understand? My desk: a muddle of books, most opened, face down, that would cause great cries, if they could cry, from stressed spines. Each open at a poem:

Brecken Hancock’s, Once More from Broom Broom published in 2014; Don Domanski’s Sub Rosa from  War in an Empty House published in 1982, Etel Adnan’s Conversations with my soul from Night published in 2016, Kevin Young’s untitled poem with the first line: It’s death there/ is no cure for – in Blue Laws published in 2016 and, with no spine issues, a review by Charles Simic of Jana Prikryl’s book and The After Party, published in 2016 and garnering lots of year end attention. Oh, and partially hidden, I see In Search of Duende by Lorca published in 1955, opened, upside down to his poem Farewell.

My reading of all these books, their poems, remains unfinished. And nothing, it seems, beautiful, yet, in this. Just frustration at not finding in all that reading material some poem or theme to write about. But Julia Hartwig, her book, now closed on my desk, propped up on Broom Broom did the job at last; inspired this blog post.

Hartwig  is considered by many to be in the same league as her Polish contemporaries, Milosz and Szymborska, both Nobel prize Laureates. Her poem, Feeling the Way, brought me up short. Literally, because I was looking for a short poem but also by the utter spaciousness of her poem and its captivating idea. This idea that something unfinished still retains utter possibility. And promise. And in that, becomes the most beautiful.

But tonight I wasn’t looking for a pencil suspended in the air, an unfinished poem, luring me  into a wonder of what it could become. I was looking for a smaller beauty in something finished. And ironically, found it here, in Hartwig’s poem, praising what is unfinished. And, indeed, as I think about the poem and its title, I wonder if her poem may be unfinished. As her life, at ninety five, remains unfinished. And mine, at sixty five, unfinished. The beauty in that. What great poems there are still be read, still to be written. And so much more to be said………….this post in that way, unfinished. The beauty in that.

One Comment

  1. elle
    Posted December 24, 2016 at 2:52 am | Permalink

    In the words of the inimitable Sylvia, ‘Perfection is horrible, it cannot have children…’

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