The Bigness of Small Poems – # 16 in a Series – Li-Young Lee

American Poet Li-Young Lee

American Poet Li-Young Lee

 One Heart
 Look at the birds. Even flying
 is born
 out of nothing. The first sky
 is inside you, open
 at either end of day.
 The work of wings
 was always freedom, fastening
 one heart to every falling thing.
 Li-Young Lee (1957 - ) from Book Of My Nights, BOA Editions, 2001

As I collect more small poems to highlight in my poetry blog I find myself once again going back to poets I have written about before. In this case the Asian-American poet Li-Young Lee. For a link to my post on Lee last year click here.

I discovered this poem of Lee through American poet Dorianne Laux. She savours it for its music and cadence. His use of one syllable words, startled by a few double syllable words and one three syllable word: fastening. It is an exquisitely crafted poem. But even more. I call it a love poem to God. Am I right? I don’t know for sure. But I do know something mysterious is happening in this poem!

This poem proves how important each word is in a poem. Lee doesn’t say Flying is born… He says: Even flying is born out of nothing. His use of Even changes everything. It suggests a comparison or a link to something else born out of nothing. Could that be God? Perhaps. And what, who is, the one heart. Again, for me, it makes sense if it is God.

And for me this small poem achieves such a largeness. A sense of a sky inside and outside. First the birds in the sky then the astonishing lines: The first sky/is inside you, open// at either end of the day. Yes! And if its true, the first sky being open inside me, how much bigger I feel. What a sense of expansiveness fills my spirit.

Read this poem out loud. Savour its meaning and its mechanics that amplify its meaning. Feel it on the tongue. How rich the poem’s music tastes in the mouth. Thank you Dorianne for your love of this poem. It’s a great one to memorize!

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