Although I've written a few (a very few) poems over the years, I am not a natural poet...and I remain in awe of people who are. The ability to evoke deep emotion, reveal a new facet of the world, or condense an entire story into the limited space and form of a poem (or likewise, of a good song lyric, or the text for a children's picture book) seems like pure magic to me. Below is one of my favorite poems, by Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962). If I could write a novel with even half the depth and impact of these 22 exquisitely-crafted lines, I'd be happy indeed. And that's something to aspire to.
The old woman sits on a bench before the door and quarrels
With her meagre pale demoralized daughter.
Once when I passed I found her alone, laughing in the sun
And saying that when she was first married
She lived in the old farmhouse up Garapatas Canyon.
(It is empty now, the roof has fallen
But the log walls hang on the stone foundation; the redwoods
Have all been cut down, the oaks are standing;
The place is now more solitary than ever before.)
"When I was nursing my second baby
My husband found a day-old fawn hid in a fern-brake
And brought it; I put its mouth to the breast
Rather than let it starve, I had milk enough for three babies.
Hey how it sucked, the little nuzzler,
Digging its little hoofs like quills into my stomach.
I had more joy from that than from the others."
Her face is deformed with age, furrowed like a bad road
With market-wagons, mean cares and decay.
She is thrown up to the surface of things, a cell of dry skin
Soon to be shed from the earth's old eye-brows,
I see that once in her spring she lived in the streaming arteries,
The stir of the world, the music of the mountain.
- Robinson Jeffers (from The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers)
There's a lovely little video of a tiny newborn fawn taking it's first steps here.