Global Poem Zones:

TZ 1-24
Planet Earth
by P. K. Page (Canada)

It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;
and the hands keep on moving,
smoothing the holy surfaces.

"In Praise of Ironing" Pablo Neruda

It has to be loved the way a laundress loves her linens,
the way she moves her hands caressing the fine muslins
knowing their warp and woof,
like a lover coaxing, or a mother praising.
It has to be loved as if it were embroidered
with flowers and birds and two joined hearts upon it.
It has to be stretched and stroked.
It has to be celebrated.
O this great beloved world and all the creatures in it.
It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet.

The trees must be washed, and the grasses and mosses.
They have to be polished as if made of green brass.
The rivers and little streams with their hidden cresses
and pale-coloured pebbles
and their fool's gold
must be washed and starched or shined into brightness,
the sheets of lake water
smoothed with the hand
and the foam of the oceans pressed into neatness.
It has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness.

and pleated and goffered, the flower-blue sea
the protean, wine-dark, grey, green, sea
with its metres of satin and bolts of brocade.
And sky - such an 0! overhead - night and day
must be burnished and rubbed
by hands that are loving
so the blue blazons forth
and the stars keep on shining
within and above
and the hands keep on moving.

It has to be made bright, the skin of this planet
till it shines in the sun like gold leaf.
Archangels then will attend to its metals
and polish the rods of its rain.
Seraphim will stop singing hosannas
to shower it with blessings and blisses and praises
and, newly in love,
we must draw it and paint it
our pencils and brushes and loving caresses
smoothing the holy surfaces.

(Prior publ." The Hidden Room (The Porcupine's Quill, 1997, two volumes))

During the last week in March 2001, over 200 poetry readings will be occurring throughout the world in conjunction with the United Nations project, "Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry." A contest was held to select a special poem that will be read on all four international venues. National Book Award winner Marilyn Hacker selected the winning poem which was submitted by Susan MacRae. The poem is by Canadian poet P.K. (Patricia Kathleen) Page. -- Ram Devineni

Susan MacRae explained her selection as follows:
I have several reasons why I submitted P.K. Page's poem "Planet Earth" for Dialogue Poetry. First, the message of the poem -- that our planet must be loved -- is so vital a message for the 21st century. Second, the glosa form of the poem (an early Renaissance form first developed by poets of the Spanish court), with its opening quatrain written by another poet, followed by four ten-line stanzas, their concluding lines taken consecutively from the quatrain, and the sixth and ninth lines rhyming with the borrowed tenth, is in itself a dialogue between two poets: the poet who wrote the quatrain, and the poet writing the glosa. The glosa form itself then reflects the theme of a dialogue of poetry across civilizations. And finally, P.K. Page as a poet and painter has been my hero (as well as many other Canadians' hero) for the brilliance of her poetry and the clarity of her vision in her 50-year long career. As a tribute to a gifted artist as well as a wonderful person, it is my great honour, and Canada's honour, to have P.K. Page's poem 'Planet Earth' be read throughout the world as a message of peace.

P. K. Page was born in England and brought up on the Canadian prairies. She was out of the country for many years with her diplomat-husband, Arthur Irwin, but now lives in Victoria, British Columbia. She is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, including three books for children. Among other honours, she has won the Governor General's Award for poetry for The Metal and the Flower (1954). She is also a visual artist whose works are represented in The National Gallery of Canada and The Art Gallery of Ontario. P. K. Page is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and holds honourary doctorates from four Canadian universities. The Winter 1996 number of The Malahat Review is a tribute to her life and work. [Bio provided by the Dialogues project. Ed.]