While Digging Out the Garden by Sarah Dunster

You, but not you.

The earth braces itself against
my first spade full €”ground softened by
my salt €”unearthing roots   like fingers
spread to sky, claiming a blessing
or, at least, an answer.

You are earth. You. But not
you €”we never buried you, and
I never saw your face in death.

I’m alive, yet not alive.

I walk through shadowed valleys and
I find the Tree €”not fruited, but felled;
a blackened trunk, with spring sprung up
in a hundred nubile branches €”

Me. And you.

The garden must be dug. My young
plants wait on the sill, stretching leggy
stems to reach the light. I turn the
earth. What lies beneath? My spade-tip
scrapes the iron mantle, while I
hang on the wooden handle.


To read Sarah’s bio and other Spring Poetry Runoff entries, go here and here.

*Competition entry*


23 thoughts on “While Digging Out the Garden by Sarah Dunster”

  1. You are kind of like my laptop…:) I hope it is not completely nonsensical. I have learned that someimes things that make perfect sense to me have absolutely no practical application in the real world.


  2. Sarah, https://www.facebook.com/WildernessInterfaceZone, where I suggest a comparison between your poem and Seamus Heaney’s “Digging” and Ted Hughes’ “Daffodils.”

    You are in a pomo mood at the moment, or perhaps just a pomo mode, but either way, I’m grooving on the layers. There are possibilities for meaning here whether or not we can read your mind.


  3. Post-modern: resisting traditional structures of meaning and meaning-making, in this case (though it means all kinds of other things as well).


  4. Sarah, I don’t know where you’re located, but there’s a chapter of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies in almost every state. In my local Utah chapter, we have regular critique sessions and educational workshops. I bet you’d like it.


  5. You’re doing very well as it is. I think reading poetry is the best approach, but I like Strand and Boland’s _The Making of a Poem and Adams’ Poetic Designs_.


  6. I recommend Perrine’s Sound and Sense: An Introduction to Poetry. It covers the main elements and gives hundreds of examples.

    For me, “Digging” belongs to a type of poetry I call “riddle verse”. Emily Dickinson was a big riddle verse writer. In your case, the riddle is who you mean by “you”.


  7. For me, the “you” is someone specific that I have lost. I suppose for the reader, it would be whomever or whatever they felt they identified as the “you.” Person, place, thing… self.


  8. Thanks, Sarah. I’ve quoted your poem and that last reply in a critique on my poetry website. I hope you don’t mind. The critique gets a little more nitty-gritty than I’ve seen any comments get here and is not all love and hugs, but it’s a sort of chronicle of my experience reading and thinking about your poem, which I am happy to call a poem and which I have learned to treasure–but you should read the critique.


  9. I appreciate the suggestions for reading material…honestly, this is my only available critique group. I actually didn’t feel lile there was a whole lot of critquing going on, just friendly acknowlegements, which we are all doing on each others’s poems…which honestly, I come here for more than any contest 😉 Have enjoyed reading others’ poems and participating in the discussions.


  10. General discussion of a poem and conversational critiquing are fine. More formal and detailed critiques might exert unintentional pressure on the contest, not to mention on the campfire conversazione.


  11. I’m on it 🙂

    Right now it’s kind of a mess. Drupal=husband is good at it, I know nothing about it, so I’m always waiting for him to help me fix it. Kind of wondering if it was a good idea in the first place…


  12. Drupal is great. Very versatile. I use free WordPress right now, but I plan to go back to Drupal when I can afford to rent cyberspace again.


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