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.

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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.

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  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.

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

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  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.

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  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_.

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  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”.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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…

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  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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