I want your world to seem unfamiliar to you

I arrived in the middle of the night in the middle of the city of roses. I withered quietly, petals folding inward. Both S. and S. came to sit on the couch when they got home, and let my feet curl against them in my sleepiness.

I awoke too early to the sound of granola being covertly chewed in the kitchen.

Similarly, the waterfalls I encountered later were just as thunderous.

At Mount Tabor, I marveled at the slats of sunlight through towering trees.

Though I meant to spend most of the day alone, I stumbled into more time with company than I meant to.

I spent part of the evening in V’s backyard after studying the contents of book shelves inside. I had selected a volume of poetry (mentally noting that I am always pleasantly shocked at the presence of poetry in someone’s home) and also took some works of Elie Wiesel just in case.

I stayed in the hammock until it got too cold, listening to the sound of pears dropping from the branches to the ground. I studied the bruises on their sides, indicating the melancholy resulting from the fruits’ rude awakening that they were no longer a part of the tree. Perhaps the tree felt that the fruit was a complete work, ripe now — ready to be released into the world. Some of the fruits did not feel ready for inconvenient freedom.

The wind chimes agreed hollowly in the distance.

I used my dying phone to start writing about the day…

I kept trying to photograph birds flying across the piece of sky above me. I kept missing them, so I sighed and kept it in my mind as poetry instead. It startles me whenever my front phone camera opens as a reminder of some attempted self portrait in front of landscapes.

My hair, Medusa-like in its messiness, imitated the birds I was attempting to photograph.

Rose in hammock

From one of the books I was holding:

There are moments when I feel the universe expand.

Mandelstam: “Poetry is the certainty of being right.” Brodsky: “Poetry is the school of uncertainty.” I am not certain about either assertion.

Poetry should be written the way adultery is committed: on the run, on the sly, during the time not accounted for. And then you come home, as if nothing ever happened.

Time is like a diatonic scale: it consists of major and minor seconds.

Pick a piece of wood floating in the river and follow it down the current with your glance, keeping the eyes constantly on it, without getting ahead of the current. This is the way poetry should be read: at the pace of a line.

Went to bed with an unfinished poem in my mouth and could not kiss.

Inspiration: when I have confidence in myself.

On Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space: his last name comes from the Russian gagara, a flightless bird.

How do I feel about people who do not understand my poetry? I understand them.

—Mom, on the exam should I play “March of the Wooden Soldiers” with inspiration or with no mistakes?

Suddenly you realize that only what you have put into poems can be considered lived through. That is how you become a poet. And at that point you begin, consciously or otherwise, living the kind of life that is fraught with poetry. That is how you cease being human. The former happens abruptly, the latter gradually, both irrevocably.

“The ovaries of a newborn girl contain up to 400,000 egg cells.” All my poems are already in me.

Poetry begins when not only the reader but also the author starts wondering whether it is poetry.

—Do you understand that understanding is impossible?
—I do.

In a poem, poetry is a guest. At times the guest stays long, but never for good.

“You are my first and my last/Bright listener of the dark raving.”—Akhmatova to her lover Garshin in “The Poem Without a Hero.” After they broke up, she changed the line to “You, not the first nor the last/Dark listener of the bright raving.” (From Lydia Chukovskaya’s The Akhmatova Journals.)

My diaries are letters from my former self to my future self. My poems are replies to those letters.

Just as I expected, everything has come out not the way I had expected.

You must not write in verse about what you do not know or about what you know for sure, only about what you vaguely suspect, hoping that poems will either confirm or dispel your suspicions.

A Swiss winemaker told me that rose bushes are planted along the edges of vineyards not for embellishment but to alert about blight: being sensitive, roses become blighted long before the grapevine does. That is when I understood that Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea” is not about being spoiled, but about the difference between a true poet and an imposter.

An ideal poem: every line of it can serve as a title for a book.

Reader: Do you want me to recognize my everyday world in your poems?
Poet: No, I want your world to seem unfamiliar to you, once you take your eyes off the text.

– All lines by Vera Pavlova, from “Heaven Is Not Verbose: A Notebook” (entire poem can be found via Poetry Foundation here).

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