So, one day not too long ago, I was minding my own business when dear writer friend Jessica Swaim sent me the following Brian Doyle prose poem. Does she know me, or what?
THE BLUE ROOM by Brian Doyle I was in a library in Utah the other night when A small boy asked me to help him find a book. The boy was perhaps four years old and intent. I said what book would you like, little brother? And he said, 'One with blue in it. A lot of blues. One I can smell the blue. I love that blue. Mom Says people can like other colors too, but why? Is there a shelf for blue books? If lots of people Read the book does the blue wear out? Is there A blue bank where you have to get a new blue?' You know, many times I have sighed that I am Not able to help people who ask me for advice, Or directions, or counsel about this or that. But I don't think I ever wanted so much to say, hey, Little brother, come with me to the room where All the books are so blue that you have to laugh At the seethe and soar of it; books about oceans And herons and jays and the sky and Vida Blue, Books about how blue used to be and might yet Become, books brimming with azure and cobalt And cornflower and iris and periwinkle and teal, Books so blue that you dream in blue for days . . . ~ from How the Light Gets In: And Other Headlong Epiphanies (Orbis Books, 2015).
Sigh. Don’t you love the way kids wholeheartedly embrace the things they love? It could be an object, an animal, an idea, even a color. Everything is alive, has a soul, a unique set of characteristics we fail to see as adults. If only we could retain that sense of innocence and openness, that refreshingly skewed logic! When was the last time you recognized colors by their smell?
Yes, I would love a library full of blue books — blue titles, blue subjects, blue covers. Do you think the little boy in Doyle’s “proem” would like these?
A few more, just in case he has a penchant for vintage:
Speaking of libraries, it seems some of them are already down with this blue books thing, with clever displays like, “These Books Blue Us Away,” and “Winter Blues,” and there’s even a collection to accommodate patrons who can’t remember what the book title was, only that it had a blue cover. Librarians are the coolest.
I think the boy in Doyle’s proem would be very pleased. 🙂
Speaking of Brian Doyle, I’m so grateful to Jessica for introducing me to his work. As an Oregon resident, Doyle was editor of the Portland Magazine, and published not only poetry, but essays, short stories, nonfiction and novels before he sadly died of cancer in 2017.
He called his prose poems, “proems” — lyrical observations on what it means to be human through his personal, spiritual, theological, and philosophical lens. They read simply, sometimes about small, everyday occurrences, but he’s brilliant at revealing the measure of grace that lies within. He was someone in love with the world and everything in it, with a deep sense of humility when encountering wonder. He was amazed by it all and knew how to tell about it in the most accessible way.
In an essay entitled, “Their Irrepressible Innocence,” Doyle ruminates on how visiting a kindergarten class was the perfect antidote for life’s frustrations and disappointments, whenever he experienced “a gray November in my soul.”
I find that as few as twenty minutes with people no taller than your belt buckle is enormously refreshing, and gloriously educational, and wonderfully startling, and endlessly hilarious, and very much like drinking a tremendous glass of crystalline water when you have been desperately thirsty for a long time, and in something of a personal desert . . . They love to explain things by drawing them, and colors for them have flavors and characters and tonal intimations and strict rules and regulations; depending on the artist, you can use green for buffalo, but you cannot use blue for cougars, because cougars are afraid of blue, everyone knows that.
Thanks to Doyle, I’ve been reminded of how intuitive kids are about colors, and thanks to Jessica, I’ve discovered a wonderful new-to-me writer and poet, i.e., “proemist,” to uplift, nourish, and inspire me this year. Do check out more of Brian Doyle’s work; your life will be all the richer for it.
Meanwhile, if you need me, I’ll be out and about looking for just the right blue room. 🙂
The lovely and talented Jone Rush MacCulloch is hosting the Roundup. Drift on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Stay safe, be well, wear your mask, and have a very blue weekend!
*Copyright © 2021 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.