Being Sensible

by David Wagoner

A poet may have something sensible to say about woods, even about leaves, but you should never trust him on trees. —Auden, The Dyer’s Hand

A poet may have something sensible
to say about a forest—that he’d been lost
and found in one, had fallen asleep there
and been wakened, that he was no longer trying
to be sensible about much of anything,
least of all leaves, or to feel trustworthy
on, under, in or up against trees.

A poet may say he feels like a tree sometimes,
that part of him, out of sight, is reaching down
into the earth, yet flourishes back to life
among some others. But that doesn’t make sense.

A poet, in what used to be called woods
can sit, can trust his back against a stump,
and, with no leaves overhead to talk about,
may say about trees at least one sensible thing:
he reads and writes his poems on their pulp.

David Wagonerr has published 18 books of poems, most recently A Map of the Night (U of Illinois Press 2008), and Copper Canyon Press will publish his 19th, After the Point of No Return, in 2012. He has also published ten novels, one of which, The Escape Artist, was made into a movie by Francis Ford Coppola. He won the Lilly Prize in 1991, six yearly prizes from Poetry, and the Arthur Rense Prize for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2011. He was a chancellor the Academy of American Poets for 23 years. He edited Poetry Northwest from 1966 to 2002, and he is professor emeritus of English at the University of Washington. He teaches at the low-residency MFA program of the Northwest Institute of the Literary Arts on Whidbey Island.