“We couldn’t have done it without the poets” In the film Paulus talks about the profound role poets and their work have played in his life. I remember him once telling me that poetry was “real food”. Paulus has memorized hundreds of poems in order to “embody” them. He also alters them on occasions to suit his own environment, a process he calls “kidnapping”. His deepest relationship is to the work of Mary Oliver, and the two have developed a wonderful friendship over the years. In the introduction to the film Mary reads from her poem ‘To Begin With, the Sweet Grass”:
Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.
And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?
I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.
(“To Begin With, the Sweet Grass” by Mary Oliver from ‘Evidence’ © Beacon, 2009)
During the filming Paulus spoke often of Mary and read her poems to me. Here is a recording of him reciting from heart her wonderful poem “Goldenrod”.
And here is one of her better known poems and a personal favorite of mine, in particular the lines:
“Of course! the path to heaven doesn’t lie down in flat miles. It’s in the imagination with which you perceive this world, and the gestures with which you honor it”
Here’s the whole poem
Across the wide waters
with white flowers—
and it moves
on its miraculous muscles
as though time didn’t exist,
as though bringing such gifts
to the dry shore
was a happiness
almost beyond bearing.
And now it turns its dark eyes,
the clouds of its wings,
an elaborate webbed foot,
the color of charcoal.
Soon it will be here.
Oh, what shall I do
when that poppy-colored beak
rests in my hand?
Said Mrs. Blake of the poet:
I miss my husband’s company—
he is so often
Of course! the path to heaven
doesn’t lie down in flat miles.
It’s in the imagination
with which you perceive
and the gestures
with which you honor it.
Oh, what will I do, what will I say, when those
touch the shore?
(“The Swan” by Mary Oliver, from Winter Hours. © Houghton Mifflin, 1999.)
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