I have been thinking a lot about the word “let” in our language. The past two weeks, we heard Linda Gregg’s poem “Let Birds”–Let birds . . . do what? You can see Poetry Slow Down how this has slowed me down. How to let birds . . . be? What is being asked of us by the poet? And she does not stop there, with this mysterious title that takes us down the rabbit hole. We first encounter the word “let” in the poem, “me like a mare let out to pasture.” Here, we understand “let out” as in, allowed to be or go as you wish, as you need, as you are able. Some outer force makes possible what is in you to do. Something was contained, contained you, and now is “let out.” It is a liberating thing, a freeing up. An outing. When someone is “let out,” as in, let out of jail, or, let out, as, of school, when school lets out . . . it is a release.
We hear that word, allow, when she says, allow the ocean to wake in you. When we say, allow this, we confer a power, an authority, to let something happen, to make something happen that something has the capacity to do or be . . . When we let or allow, it is to . . . the word I am searching for is . . . surrender, yield, it is to not LET anything get in the way of what needs to happen or be, that naturally exists. But it is also an urging, a kind of command. A prayer, a plea, for whatever is possible to not be prevented. It is a way of language, a way of creation, a way of power, a way of going with the flow, being an instrument of the flow . . .
So, are you thinking, Poetry Slow Down, Let there be light! God said, Let there be light! So, light exists, and God says, yes! A charge to the universe, gather yourself, manifest, be! Light!
Or, Let freedom ring!
Or, the Beatles, Let it be! Or cummings, let it go! Or Shakespeare, Sonnet 116!
Or, Let us pray!, Or, Let us now praise famous men. Or, Let the good times roll.
And how many love poems, and songs use “let”–I will never let you go, let your heart speak; let is the word of the lover, the leader, in our civic culture, let is this word of allowance and permission to sanction open-ness and flow. And where does this word come from, this favorite word of poets that begins so many poems?
So “let us go then, you and I . . . ” in the words of T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and see what the poets have said about how and why to let “let” into our lives, and open us to the idea of what is possible if we imagine it.
And then, Poetry Slow Down, speaking of what we let in, when we open ourselves to human longing for something more free, more whole, more harmonious, more evolved in our lives, I happened to read “The White Rooster” by a Mr. William Goyen. This was astonishing poetry, even if it was a short story. I have to read it to you. You have to hear it. And then, I have to tell you about this author, and the role of poetry in his development and goals and values as a writer. And meanwhile, he set me on a wild rooster chase for rooster poems, and it turns out that poets not only write about roosters, but identify with them, as fellow poets, heralds, awakeners of consciousness, conscience, life itself. We consider that Elizabeth Bishop, William Stafford, and many others write remarkable poems about roosters, and we conclude with Henry David Thoreau’s identification with roosters in Walden, and the meaning to him of roosters in the context of his role as poet bringing us perpetual Morning, poet/rooster letting in the Light. I confess I had no idea where this show was going to take me, letting its path flow . . . but I am happy I ended up with roosters, and I hope you are, too. Let us thank our poets who slow us down, wake us up, and bring on a new day of hope for what is humanly possible.
© Barbara Mossberg