We all know of Plein Air and here in Kittery Point, ME, one sees painters at work in the summer with easels planted by the sea, Chauncy Creek, in the Rachel Carson Woods, in fields and by salt water marshes. Less visible are its poets of which I am one. Roughly translated, elle e`ecrit a pied means she writes on foot, which I’ve done for years—at first in a lost landscape in the Berkshires, now by the sea each morn, sometimes with pen and notebook in hand, other times composing in my open consciousness using what I call “ten-fold awareness.”
First plante des pied, or plant the foot like a dancer would, then push off on the seaside path. This morning I took in the faintest of rainbows wreathed round a quietly radiant sun, clouds looking like chimeras or Chinese dragons, a wayside apple planted like an ornament on a dead branch. The tracings are everywhere—my dog noses for bouquets of scent, I nose for scent messages in this ancient, elemental, beautifully ruined environs. I, too, am in ruins, author of my own poetic despair to which I am prone, out of which I rise when words start rehearsing in the rehearsal hall in my mind, my aging but still evermore engaging mind.
I walk like a thoroughbred, the training in iambic thought long and rigorous. Nonetheless the pacings are perfect, the rhythms start rolling in the way the waves seem to think before they thud. How deep that thud and deeper still, the thud of the poem. It may begin within the lit imagination, the legendary quest for the right word to arrive while my gaze turns to purple lily pads in the pond or the roughage of milkweed seed caught like tufts of silk in black and gold sand.
I am not by nature a nature poet. I would need a far saner sensibility for that, a refinement I can’t master as madness does and will descend to master me, but never, ever while elle `ecrit `a pied or in the sanctuary in the sunroom that faces the water that is my study. My literary being is somehow sanctified and that sanctity has been my salvation many times over.
I am only one of a handful of poets here in Kittery Point, but there are all those sightings others have of me staring out into miraculous space, pen and notebook in hand while dawn smolders on the horizon. I even have fingerless gloves and our nearly Artic winters do not stop me. I begin and end each day with my epic walks, consider them my matins and vesper prayers. Poem are blessings. I gather mine slowly, let them grow into private Bibles, some hellish, others paradisiacal, but always and forever more a critical and profoundly redemptive act.