by Justine C. Tajonera
I'm glad I get email prompts from Poetry.About.Com. Their latest email asks me what was my earliest remembered poem. Sadly, I can't say that they were the classics like The Tyger by William Blake. I would have loved this poem from the start. I only really appreciated children's poems later on.
No, I must say that my foray into poetry started in fantasy. The earliest poem I can remember is from The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin which I read when I was in grade school. The poem below was powerful, especially when taken in context of magic as practiced in Earthsea. It taught me that words are worlds. Each word has power and uttering the true name of something was enough to bend it to one's will, wreak havoc, or heal.
You must not change one thing
one pebble, one grain of sand
until you know what good and evil
will follow on that act.
The World is in balance, in equilibrium.
A wizard's power of changing and summoning
can shake the balance of the world.
It is dangerous, that power.
It is most perilous.
It must follow knowledge and serve need.
To light a candle is to cast a shadow.
Ursula K. Leguin - 1975 A Wizard of Earthsea
In the same vein, maybe what I can talk about is the poetry that prompted me to write poems myself. I will have to say that after The Wizard of Earthsea, the poems from Dragonlance really captured my imagination. I must credit my brother, Gus, for being my partner in crime in reading these fantasy books.
Here's an example of one of the poems from this collection of fantasy books:
From Dragonlance Legends Volume 3 (page 151)
Novel by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
Poetry by Michael Williams
Water from dust, and dust rising out of the water
Continents forming, abstract as color or light
To the vanished eye, to the touch of Paladine's daughter
Who knows with a touch that the robe is white,
Out of that water a country is rising, impossible
When first imagined in prayer,
And the sun and the seas and the stars invisible
As gods in a code of air.
Dust from the water, and water arising from dust,
And the robe containing all colors assumed in the trust
Of ever returning color and light,
Out of that dust arises a wellspring of tears
To nourish the work of our hands
In forever approaching country of yearning and years,
In due and immanent lands.
I chose this, in particular, because Crysania (she's the one on the cover, above) was one of those characters that I could identify with. She was really uptight! Hahaha! She was also very spiritual, even to a fault. That was why I loved her character. Her very devotion (and its severity)...were both her strength and her weakness.
Some of my earliest attempts at writing was in fantasy (with poems incorporated!). The tentative title of my then-fantasy novel was A Tale of Aetamar and Gitel. My heroine was Aerelle (a princess of Aetemar) whom I took with me to my days of tabletop gaming later on in life. I had maps, character banks, back stories and histories for each city. Sadly, my work on Aetemar and Gitel have been lost. What a big blow. I would have loved to share it with my kids now. Well, I could reconstruct it. But that's another story.
So, thank you, fantasy genre, for being my wellspring of poetry. How funny to recount this and to explore the origins of my writing. Fantasy has had a very powerful impact on me and I didn't even notice until I dug up my memory bank. My poetry started on dragons' wings and uttered chants or spells. And how right that I remember now. May I never let the child in me grow old.