Long-returning friends & those here for the first time will surely be grateful for what Virginia Bodner left behind–memories; influence; gifts for eye, ear, heart & mind; and, shared here for the first time, writings just being discovered. Beyond her unassuming beauty of eye & ear, more was often going on–reflecting in tranquility, connecting heart & word, exploring the medium of expression….
She had grown up at home both in & out of her body–diving from the heights or flying off with a crow; dancing in leotards & disappearing into the music; at one with nature, in tune with her own feelings, & equally engaged in the lives of the mind, interested in the nature of the world. Her lovely, quiet voice had been partly tuned by piano, dulcimer & autoharp; more so by the elemental sounds of the encountered world; more so still by her own heart-felt attention to the delicate life of the world.
Her quality of relation was a main source of her impact, influence & effects. Her artistic & poetic makings are of the same cloth–shared adventures; reflections; ways of tuning, feeling, asking. In the words of the old Hebrew thanksgiving song, Dayenu, “it would have been enough” for the insight, good will & pleasure of the person.
Yet there’s more to be found–& be grateful for–in her artistic example, both practice & product, a by-product of craft, caring attention to details. Much of her poetry practice happened in solitude–not hidden, but made & tucked away in quiet moments apart, often a form of meditation, fine-tuning awareness, mood & sense of being. These could be gems of an instant, sketched perceptions, or musical excursions.
Many of her poems are also inspired by, about, &/or written for & to particular people, a body made for sharing. These were more poetry-as-letter, a direct connection between people, than poetry-as-poetry, the practice of an art for the art’s sake. She didn’t practice poetry-as-professioon, for example. But she did explore its meanings, range, modes, and potentials.
She had all the tools of language, insight, experience and feeling for that unlimited art. Though she studied natural sciences & teaching, she’d loved & practiced ‘language arts’ from an early age, including the oral–playing Anne Frank in high school; reciting poetry (Homer to e. e. cummings) in college–where she also discovered Tagore & Basho, along with a life partner similarly inspired, leading both to India, Japan & countless poets, poems, song-offerings & blessings after, world-wide & local alike, from the masters, pro’s, neighbors, family, friends & students.
Although grateful for what Yeats called “monuments of…magnificence,” the great works so moving & meaningful through the ages, she never believed the arts were meant mainly for masters & admired contemporaries alone (the 1%), but to provide value for all ages & levels of sophistication. Come to think of it, this was the same as her relation with the natural world–not restricted to the most magnificent & awe-inspiring examples, but a vital part of wherever she was, or we are.
Sophistication & knowledge were not the keys to what the arts offered by way of value-added experience of being human. In this, her relationship was also the same as with the natural world. First came a quality of attention, experience & relationship, a respect, good will & interest in, out of which learning more & knowing better grow. Neither nature nor the arts were subjects that began or ended at school ground boundaries.
She brought nature into school, while also the opposite, taking the classroom outside, restoring a little wetlands as an outdoor classroom. What had been a field of rubble & mud became a place for contemplating nature, as well as for exploring inner experience, where the arts expanded the range of response. More of that story is told on the Our Little Wetlands page. The point here is that neither nature study nor the arts were ever primarily academic to her, but active engagements in the daily life.
As a student at Radcliffe, she broke school rules to rehabilitate an injured bird (Iris) in her dorm room. Nor was this her only wild friend. When she’d left for college, she said goodbye to a rescued crow (Crocus), who’d been flying free for some time, but greeting her each morning. After an absence of about four years, Crocus showed up in the yard for her wedding.
If you knew her well, you recognize the spirit of the person. If you’ve never met her before, some such remains possible through the work left behind–especially the poetry–whether written as meditation, to/for specific readers, photo-album or to test/expand poetry’s potential.
Newcomers may want to check the earliest post below (“Hello, Friends”) for orientation to the site, a work in progress. Those especially interested in her writing will find the most examples so far on the Pen-Play page, but some also in Friends (two poems at the top) & the Poetic Discovery post below (two to take breath away), as well as a prose article in Our Little Wetlands .
~~~~ the pot is fired
~~~~~~with wood & dung
~~~~naked we enter the flames
~~~~in smoke & whispers