Purchase Joanne's New Book Hospice House »

Joanne the Poet - The Poetry of Joanne M. Clarkson

What To Do with the Beauty

I was with a group of poets on Zoom recently, talking about how and when we became artists of words. A couple of people found their calling by taking a writing or literature class. But others of us turned to writing when confronted by overwhelming beauty.

I vividly remember the first poem I ever wrote. I was about 8 years old and my family was coming home from somewhere in the evening and we saw, out the car window, Mt. Rainier pinked by the sunset. I recall how the grandeur of it made me want to cry; made my heart physically hurt. The inside of the car went quiet and I knew everyone was feeling the same. My mother, a gifted musician, wrote a melody to rosy mountains. My cousin, a watercolorist, painted the scene from memory. For a while I was stumped by what my response could be since I was neither pianist nor particularly good at drawing.

Then words formed in my head. They were not only descriptive; the words themselves had relationships with each other. They re-created not only the mountain, but more especially my FEELING about what I saw. I wrote my little poem in a lined notebook. After that, for the rest of my life, I have always had a notebook (often many) beside me.

Beauty elates us, but it also makes us suffer. It creates something inside us and immediate but also gives us a glimpse of something far away and ready to be snatched by time. More than anything, I remember wanting to hold on to the exquisite, rare moment.

My mother was gifted at so many things and a very passionate person. But she wasn’t a weeper. She rarely shed a tear and never when she was sad or hurt. The only times I saw her cry were when we were at the seashore or in an art gallery or somehow in the presence of – beauty.

We were very close and after her passing in 1999, I expected to hear from her. For several years she seemed silent. Then one day I was out at the beach at Westport. It was clear, the sky a vivid dark blue which was reflected on the water. But there was an urgent energy to the waves as though anticipating a storm. Clearly in my mind, in her voice, I heard: “Now I know why I used to cry every time I saw the sunset.”

What a perfect description of heaven. There is a ‘why’ to all art, all writing. Mine is to save my heart from breaking with the beauty I do not yet completely understand.

Leave a Reply