Coleman Barks surprised me with a gift. It was his book Xenia—a book of definitions—
words he had culled from the OED and other arcane places. Some words were the creation of Coleman himself. I had just spent ten days in a poetry workshop that he led at Hollyhock on Cortes Island in British Columbia. The word Coleman wanted me to look at and perhaps meditate upon was “isomer,” defined as “something very like but in another energy state.”
Is that how Coleman saw me? In another energy state? I know my energy state at Hollyhock was happy. Our group hiked, swam in the sea and we even gathered oysters that we consumed on the half shell. We saw otters, eagles and other wildlife. And we wrote poems. It was a wonderful time. I wrote this poem after a hike with a naturalist who showed us the tiny jawbone of a shrew he had found.
We chased all our bugbears away
with the jawbone of a shrew
as we hiked
all down the rocky
Otter. Watercolor by Barbara Spring
For me, writing poetry is a journey of discovery and a nitor delight. (Nitor is from Xenia)
Coleman had inscribed Xenia with this note:
For Barbara, With gratitude and admiration for your writing. Coleman
The feeling is mutual.