Let me tell you about one of my yoga sestinas and how it illustrates something about me as a writer and, to an extent, writers in general. I started out knowing that I wanted to write about pigeon pose, in part because it is a good way to stretch out your hips, in part because kapotanasana is just fun to say, and in part because I had watched a YouTube video of my yoga teacher performing a song about going away to find yourself. She spent a month in Italy. I spent two years in Japan, so I knew what she was talking about. Also, I had recently gone to my college reunion in Middlebury, Vermont and had felt very much as if I had rediscovered my tribe: goofy people who speak multiple languages and have broadened themselves through travel.
For my six end words, I started with every heart finds its true north. Then I turned to Wikipedia to find out shtuffs about carrier pigeons. I learned a bunch of cool trivia; for example:
The PDSA Dickin Medal was instituted in 1943 in the United Kingdom by Maria Dickin to honour the work of animals in war. It is a bronze medallion, bearing the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve” within a laurel wreath, carried on a ribbon of striped green, dark brown, and pale blue. It is awarded to animals that have displayed “conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units.” The award is commonly referred to as “the animals’ Victoria Cross.” (Dickin Medal)
But I also found something I could use for the poem, that scientists have found that pigeons have large numbers of iron particles on their beaks, which allow them to sense the magnetic pole. Eureka!
This is, I think, one of the cool things about being a writer. I know there is going to be something out there, that I can find serendipitously, and that I can somehow use. The world can be a fascinating place after all, or, as a Japanese T shirt told me twenty years ago, The world is so full of things.
Yes, it is indeed. You just have to look. Writers, I believe, are people who constantly look. Here is the start of the poem:
The Earth’s white-hot iron center pulls every
magnet’s needle around to point to the heart
of the north, not so different from how a pigeon finds
her way home. They say pigeons have iron on their
beaks, tiny particles that act as a magnetic
guide, helping the birds discern south from north.
It is different for everyone, our magnetic north,
the paths and people who pull us. Not every
bird nests in the same tree or coop. What’s magnetic
to you may not be the thing that pulls my heart
around to face it, eagerly.
Dickin Medal. Wikipedia. 12 Jan. 2015. Web. Mar. 17, 2015
Shelley said that poetry “marks the before unapprehended relations of things” — things like pigeons, true North, and yoga!
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Shelley was da bomb.