Kundalini Splendor

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

To No Stranger (Mollie Ruth Bottoms) 

When I was about 16, I had a remarkable English literature teacher who inspired me to follow the path of poetry. She was herself a transcendentalist who revered the writings of Wordsworth, Emerson and others who sought the ideal in the realm of the "actual."

I am currently preparing for a move to a different location (still in San Francisco) and in sorting out old papers, I found this poem which she had written for a small chapbook published in 1936 by the local college where she taught. I have always been grateful to her for the encouragement and inspiration she provided to me as an aspiring young writer.

Her poem is written as a sonnet, with the rhyme scheme of ABBA, ABBA,
CDE, CDE. It is (I think) much more difficult to write in set rhyme than in free verse. Robert Frost said that to dispense with rhyme was like playing tennis without a net.

And the thought of the poem is, of course, the notion that ultimate reality cannot be expressed in words, for it can only be encountered in silence.

I am publishing this poem as a tribute to her

To No Stranger

For here we meet again behind the word,
Behind the phrase, behind pretense of art;
And here we know again the naked heart,
And realize again desire's absurd
Futility. And hear again unheard,
Our voiceless songs, drawn quietly apart
From all out noisy singing, dimly start
Upon ethereal soundless sounds that gird
Our slender lives. You and I, my dear,
Have otherwhere in other times been mute;
Forsaken speech to know the noiseless soul;
Have found that only silence holds the sheer
Unreckoned meaning of the absolute,
That only wordlessness contains the whole.

Mollie Ruth Bottoms

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