Meditation on Blue

Don McKay

copyright ©2004 by Don McKay

Irresistible, on this atmospheric planet, where
there’s a blue to carry the heart home and a blue
for virgins and a blue to call
the spider from the drain.
Nobody argues with its
shameless imitation of love, diving
simultaneously into the eye and out of sight: sea,
sky, the absence of convulsions and flags,
our own errata winking at us out of depths or heights.
Knowing that one day we will fall to black
or fade to grey, and blue
has been both places and includes them
as a saxophone includes its drastic
possibilities. It’s with us.
We’ve been gone before.

Notes on the Poem

As Don McKay fixes his incisive poet's gaze on the range and power of colour - one colour in particular - the title of his poem is prophetic and accurate. We have truly been drawn into a meditative state. We've considered the potent effects of colour in previous Poems of the Week, including Shane Book's "World Town" and most vividly, in Yusef Komunyakaa's "Poppies". How is McKay's poem in the same spirit as those poems, and how is its contemplation of colour markedly different? (We invite you to tell us, here in the comments or where we will post this Poem of the Week on Facebook and Twitter.) Dorothea Lasky offers some enchanting observations on the magic of colour, poetry and colour as it's used in poetry in her 2014 Poetry Magazine essay "What Is Color in Poetry": "A poem is special because its logic is emotional and aesthetic and resists the traditional ways logic seeks to jail itself. Color is special because there is no way to pin it down. It has a live wire that illuminates its frequency. Of course, a poem does, too." It feels like a live wire is connecting the various applications of the colour blue in McKay's poem, doesn't it? As Lasky concludes: "Color is not simply a decorative element in a poem. Color creates an expanse; a field, a shared formal field, with which to plant more shared components of the material imagination, a poem. Color makes this space bigger, this imaginative space more specific and bigger, gives it weight, makes it solid." As her essay reveals, Lasky's personal colour preference might have her especially predisposed to "Meditation on Blue." McKay's poem encapsulates beautifully how pervasive and important colour is to us - functionally and pragmatically, yes, but also symbolically, spiritually, emotionally, at the most fundamental of levels.

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