Hello friends! Last month we celebrated Earth Day and today I am pleased to feature a poem that has been selected by the United Nations in March 2001 for its reading series “Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry.” The poem was read at places around the world which were seen as “international ground,” including the United Nations building in New York, a spot on Mount Everest, the South pacific and a site in Antarctica.
The poet is a companion of the Order of Canada, the British-born, Canadian-reared Patricia Kathleen Page was considered among Canada’s most esteemed writers. She died on January 14, 2010 at the great age of 93.
by P. K. Page (Canada)
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;
and the hands keep on moving,
smoothing the holy surfaces.
“In Praise of Ironing” Pablo Neruda
It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens,
the way she moves her hands caressing the fine muslins
knowing their warp and woof,
like a lover coaxing, or a mother praising.
It has to be loved as if it were embroidered
with flowers and birds and two joined hearts upon it.
It has to be stretched and stroked.
It has to be celebrated.
O this great beloved world and all the creatures in it.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet.
The trees must be washed, and the grasses and mosses.
They have to be polished as if made of green brass.
The rivers and little streams with their hidden cresses
and pale-coloured pebbles
and their fool’s gold
must be washed and starched or shined into brightness,
the sheets of lake water
smoothed with the hand
and the foam of the oceans pressed into neatness.
It has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness.
and pleated and goffered, the flower-blue sea
the protean, wine-dark, grey, green, sea
with its metres of satin and bolts of brocade.
And sky – such an 0! overhead – night and day
must be burnished and rubbed
by hands that are loving
so the blue blazons forth
and the stars keep on shining
within and above
and the hands keep on moving.
It has to be made bright, the skin of this planet
till it shines in the sun like gold leaf.
Archangels then will attend to its metals
and polish the rods of its rain.
Seraphim will stop singing hosannas
to shower it with blessings and blisses and praises
and, newly in love,
we must draw it and paint it
our pencils and brushes and loving caresses
smoothing the holy surfaces.
(Prior publ.” The Hidden Room (The Porcupine’s Quill, 1997, two volumes))
Notes by Susan MacRae:
I have several reasons why I submitted P.K. Page’s poem “Planet Earth” for Dialogue Poetry. First, the message of the poem — that our planet must be loved — is so vital a message for the 21st century. Second, the glosa form of the poem (an early Renaissance form first developed by poets of the Spanish court), with its opening quatrain written by another poet, followed by four ten-line stanzas, their concluding lines taken consecutively from the quatrain, and the sixth and ninth lines rhyming with the borrowed tenth, is in itself a dialogue between two poets: the poet who wrote the quatrain, and the poet writing the glosa. The glosa form itself then reflects the theme of a dialogue of poetry across civilizations. And finally, P.K. Page as a poet and painter has been my hero (as well as many other Canadians’ hero) for the brilliance of her poetry and the clarity of her vision in her 50-year long career. As a tribute to a gifted artist as well as a wonderful person, it is my great honour, and Canada’s honour, to have P.K. Page’s poem ‘Planet Earth’ be read throughout the world as a message of peace.
If you are interested to know more about the glosa form, Samuel Peralta first discussed PK Page and form here.
Have you written a poem in tribute to another poet? Do you see poetry as a means for international dialogue between nations and across civilizations ?
Happy Monday ! Grace