Poetry is one form of expression I have been trying to think about more in the context of mountain writing. The following poem was written by Tor Kitching, an aspiring climber and mountain-biker. It was originally published in 2011 in Quiddity, the literary and artistic journal of Upper Canada College in Toronto.
When I think of poetry in the context of mountain literature what immediately springs to mind is the original haikus written by pilgrims and religious travellers in Japan. Moving along special trails along the coast and through the mountains, these pilgrims would travel between shrines and other sites of religious and spiritual significance, often stopping to write short poems or paint small images as a sort of meditative or devotional practice. If I’m not mistaken it was as part of this practice that the poetic form of haiku developed. Haiku seems to me to be the boulder problem of the poetry world. Short, cruxy – dancing between delicate touches and powerful, dynamic movements – as a form it lures you in with rigid rules and the promise of rapid artistry. Only then do you find yourself trapped by mental blocs and inflexible poetic muscles.
Winds sing. Soul strings by Skyler
It remains firmly buttoned to the inside of my chest
Like over-stitched holes in the stiff starchiness of a new cotton shirt.
Yet one button remains undone –
A relic of heartbeats and mistakes.
Another shows a loose thread –
The time I nearly lost it.
And each katabatic wind,
Each salt-filled breeze that pulls at the roots of trees,
Each relentless desert scream
Burns my lips
And fills the spinnaker in my chest
Tugging at its buttons as it billows
Like a gentle pull on the ear lobes
Reminding of the button undone
And assuring that one day my sail will be carried away.
Look for more mountain haikus soon!