by Sue B. Walker
CHAPTER 12 — Revolution and Nature: Simón Bolívar and Humboldt
Andrea Wulf begins this chapter with a passage from Bolivar’s prose poem, “My Delirium.” A slightly different translation of the entire poem can be found at:
So, what is a prose poem? It is a poem that is not written in lines and stanzas but is written in paragraphs. It possesses, however, a beautiful poetic quality and makes us of poetic techniques – repetition, fragmentation, and sometimes rhyme. It can vary in length from several pages to a few lines. Notice the repetition of “I” – “I was coming,” “I had reached,” “I had visited,” “I sought,” “I reached” . . . and so on. There is something captivating about the repetition, something lulling about the gathering of “I” sentences.
A few thoughts on reading – on what and how we read. I think we read, at least to some degree, based on our background and experiences. We read for knowledge. In terms of The Invention of Nature, I feel my lack of knowledge regarding things scientific and geographical. In fact, I subscribe to the magazine The Week to keep up with world affairs – and with where those the world-events are taking place. I once team-taught a Literature and Medicine course with a professor in the medical school. The doctors told me about The Week. They said they didn’t have time to keep up with world news – so they read The Week. Not only is there “The U.S. at a glance,” there’s “The World at a glance.” Right now, I’m looking at Toyko – and there’s a little map to show me just where Tokyo is in relation to the rest of the other places mentioned in the world. The subtitle is: “Woman kept from Med school.” There’s a Review of Books,” “Food and Drink” with a recipe for Chicken in plums and sweet sauce. So much good stuff, I can’t list it all. Just saw “Tip of the week” – “How to get back to sleep at night.” Yep, that’s for me. I’ve even gotten ideas for poetry. For example, there was once a blip about a husband who had given his wife a kidney. They subsequently got a divorce – and he wanted his kidney back. I have a poem about it!
I loved Bolívar’s lines: “Liberty was a precious plant” and “Nature was the infallible teacher of men.”
PROMPT: Write a prose poem. Perhaps begin it with “I was coming” . . . or “I sought” or another line of your own choosing. Yesterday, a friend told me this story – but in keeping with the “I” prompt – I’m going to tell it as if it were my own with modifications. “I was coming out of the store and decided to sit at the table outside the grocery. I didn’t know the woman who pulled out a chair and sat down beside me. “I’m an angel,” the woman said. “God told me to come say hello to you.” I didn’t know I was an angel; my husband might not say so, but hey, maybe I am. Just maybe I’m angel, and you are too.”