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.”