Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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Diana S. McCall lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina, where she manages the town’s community garden. For twelve years after she interviewed David Budbill, he exchanged handwritten letters with her about family, gardening, and the weather.
There are many different uses of language. There’s the politician’s use of language, which is too often an outright lie. There’s the diplomat’s use of language, which is carefully worded so as not to anger or offend, yet calculated to achieve the intended goal. The supreme diplomat these days is UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. And then there’s the poet’s use of language. Emily Dickinson said, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” I think she meant that the truth, like the sun, is too bright to look at directly. Allegory, for example, is a way of telling the truth but telling it slant. In my own poems, though, most of the time, I try to tell it blunt and straight.
Leading up to the war, I doubted the value of anything but antiwar poetry. I thought all my nature poems were . . . well, stupid. But the moment the antiwar movement failed and the bombing began, I knew how important poems about birds and trees and loneliness and sex and food and joy were. I knew those little poems were weapons in the war for human kindness.