13 July 2011


A Word and a Question Walk into a Blog . . .

Last month, I may have said something about working "elemental movement" into this month's poem. Please disregard that. =P

In the meantime, I hope you like my answer to what happens when a word and a question walk into a book blog . . .

Word: Library
Question: How high is the mountain?

Some stand at the base and think it too high,
Too quick to challenge the sky.
Some close to the peak will swear it still grows:
A secret everyone knows.
Here near the middle, where I make my home,
And up and down freely roam,
On both unknown way and well worn trail,
I am not bothered with scale.
How large my library? I cannot tell:
Yet I know it very well.

While the summit still looms over my head,
There is no ending to dread.
While the foundation stays firm for my feet,
There is no need to retreat.
And should I wander a little too far
From where familiar friends are,
Near treacherous slope or uncertain den,
I have an adventure then.
My number of books? I really don't know:
I stopped counting long ago.

This mountain as mutable as it is firm,
On which I live like a worm:
At once my home and a world unexplored,
Virgin land and dragon hoard.
Is new every morning, old every night,
And to my experienced sight
Each sunrise reveals a superior view;
The moon, what is strong and true.
What profit from reading? I earn no pay:
But life is lovely each day.

I hope you can tell that I was very happy with the word and the question I got this month. Making the connection between a library and a mountain was easy! =) I can't say I'm perfectly pleased with what I was able to do with that connection, though. Some parts of this poem are clearly superior to the others. If I had more time and more leisure (not to mention more talent!), I'd rise to the challenge of making this a true masterpiece; but as my circumstances stand, I think I'll settle with what I have. It doesn't seem so bad. =)


Salome Ellen said...

I like this very much! (Of course that may be because I am the possessor of a similar mountain....) I think "My number of books? I really don't know: I stopped counting long ago." is my favorite bit. And I admire your ability to do 10 foot/7 foot couplets.

Well done! (And I've updated to link to this post.)

Salome Ellen said...

I forgot to mention how much I like the title of this post... ;-D

dylan said...

Enbrethiliel --

I think "library" was my word! I honestly forget.

At any rate, you've given us an entertaining poem, a form big enough to splash around in (if not to swim in!), of pleasantly unpredictable and well-handled meter -- I love the fact that the even lines are shorter than the odd! I'm always comparing your poems to those of the illustrious poets who have gone before, and this one makes me think not only of G. K. Chesterton, but also of the early W. H. Auden. Maybe other figures too -- Walter de la Mare?

I like the treacherous slope and the uncertain den. I like the virgin land and the dragon hoard. And who can controvert the last line?

Shannon Young said...

I love this Enbrethiliel! I think it exactly captures the experiences of a lot of us book bloggers: "How large my library? I can not tell. But I know it very well." Well done!

CHE said...

I love this. Especially the last stanza. Beautiful and evocative.

Enbrethiliel said...


Ellen -- Thank you! That line about the number of books is literally true for me: someone actually asked me how many books I had read and was incredulous that I couldn't even manage a rough estimate! =P But it would be truer to say that I never started counting at all.

Dylan -- If no one else claims it, then we'll know it's yours! ;-)

I remember liking Auden in uni. I really should start reading him again. And I can't deny Chesterton's influence on my writing, especially where alliteration is concerned; but I was also thinking of Emily Dickinson when I wrote this.

Shannon -- Thank you! I hope every bibliophile--whether or not he is also a blogger--will be able to relate to this. =)

CHE -- The third stanza is my favourite part as well. I'm so glad you like it. Thanks for your comment! =)

Laurie said...

Ha! Couplets are the new free verse.
And your worm image brought to mind a line from Roethke, not to mention quite a few of the Romantic poets and the metaphysicals too.
You're such an accomplished poet; how long have you been writing, and do you tend to return to particular forms or themes?

Enbrethiliel said...


Laurie, you are so kind with your compliments that it seems wrong to admit that I really am just a hack. =) I know when a string of words sounds nice, and my love of alliteration helps make my own strings sound nicer, but I'm afraid I resort to "rhyming dictionaries" more often than I'd like.

I guess you could say I started when I was ten or so, after I read Little Women and wanted to be like Jo March. And because there was no pressure to be a great poet (and Louisa May Alcott was an easy enough model), I produced a poem a day . . . to be read aloud to my mother after she came home from work each evening. =) But those were the good, old, golden days . . .

Here in the present, left to my own devices, I'd probably never write any poetry. Word & Question gives me a reason to produce at least one poem every month, some of which I feel really happy about. Such as this one. =) But no matter how often I tell myself just to write more often--if only because it will make this game easier to play--I never actually do it on my own. =( I'm the sort of writer who needs people to write for or write with. No romantic image of a loner in the garret here!

Laurie said...

How Alcott hath inspired us all...

And I admire your youthful dedication: a poem a day's a high bar!

So many of us (read 'me') need a community - or at least a particularly sympathetic yet discerning reader - to press us into creative endeavor. I recall my most poetically productive seasons as my summers on the island of Martha's Vineyard, writing in community with others as we worked toward our MFAs... Now, prompted by your comments and my musings, I do believe I'll be seeking a local writers' circle (or creating one myself) to spur me on.
And of course I'll keep Word & Question -ing. Perhaps, one of these months, my attempts at more structured/closed form poems will pan out and I'll bust beyond my current free verse rut.

Enbrethiliel said...


My "juvenalia" were probably very poor poems, but I agree that the habit of writing one a day (and the blissful ignorance that let me take this high bar for granted) is priceless!

I almost joined a writer's club once, but it didn't work out. No one could figure out when to have the first meeting! =P

I wish you better luck with finding your own offline community of writers. =)