By Marc Janssen (Founder of Salem Poetry Project).

So many poets and so much art is just below the surface. It is hard to find. You have to make an effort to discover it. This is the case with Roger Weaver’s poetry. When I first heard Weaver read his work more than two years ago now, he was already elderly, and though his voice is not what it once was, his language, amazing subtle and compact, shone through.

Weaver is a native Oregonian and retired professor at Oregon State University. He has published five books and over 70 poems in various journals and magazines. Over the years some of his work has been set to music and performed. In June, I learned he would be the featured reader at Interzone, a coffee shop in Corvallis. I went and picked up Weaver’s latest book The Shape of the Wind. Weaver puts more artistry into a few lines than most writers (like me) can place in a whole page.

One of the collection’s gems is “What the Azaleas didn’t Say.” (This version is a lightly edited version of the poem that Weaver included in his 1990 poetry collection called “Travelling the Great Wheel”).

 

What the Azaleas didn’t Say

The price of passion: its intensity.

The expense of brevity.

The cost of being rooted,

Never being able to walk away.
                                       Roger Weaver

 

Like many of his best poems the text draws you in and if you like, you can just walk away having read what appears to be an interesting reflection on beauty and passion. If, however, you want to spend some time with it you begin to realize that beneath the surface of these four lines is another poem, because this thought about passion is what the azaleas “didn’t say.” If they didn’t say this, what is it they did say? So then what do I know about azaleas? Not much. Well, they are beautiful. After that Wikipedia maybe: They are related to rhododendron and bloom for a few weeks year. They like shade. Grow slowly and need light pruning every once in a while. They are toxic and in a black vase could be used as a death threat. In Chinese culture, it was referred to as the “thinking of home bush” (sixiang shu).

In all this thinking about these lines maybe what I like best is not the idea that the cost of being rooted, is not necessarily never being able to walk away but rather, the cost is wanting to stay. 

Thank you to those who have already responded to my call from last week’s column. I know you’re out there! If you have thoughts about a book, poetry, words of any kind you’d like to share with the world, please email me: wordsjade@gmail.com