This video may not be terribly interesting if you’re not friends or family of me or Rachel… unless you like porcupines, which were so much in evidence before, during and after our wedding, I thought I had to include one in the video as well. I also think our home-spun, self-uniting ceremony says something about the use of poetry in these kinds of major life events.
It may seem odd, me being a poet and all, that I hadn’t really given much thought to reading poetry at our wedding, but we were focused on getting our documents in order and writing our vows. So it was only on the day of our wedding that I mentioned to Rachel that I had a poem in mind to read, and it seemed that she did, too.
Interestingly, we both chose well-known poems from the canon (though the e.e. cummings one isn’t as well known in Britain, Rachel tells me). The trick as I saw it was to pick something that was simultaneously meaningful to me, relevant to the occasion, appropriate to the natural setting, and accessible to the audience. I love the Bible, and part of me wishes we still lived in a society that had such a powerful, ancient text in common to help unite us on ceremonial occasions or in times of crisis, but let’s face it: the poetic texts that unite us as a society these days are the pop, rock and rap songs we grew up with… the secular “high church” counterpart of which are certain poems such as Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise,” Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese,” and yes, e.e. cumming’s “I carry your heart with me.”
As for the video, I used mobile phone video footage by Rachel (via tripod) and my cousin Heidi Suydam, with additional photographs by Heidi and her daughter Morgan. I couldn’t resist including some snippets from Aaron Copland’s ballet about a newly married couple in the wilds of western Pennsylvania, Appalachian Spring. Credit is also due to Joseph Brackett, composer of the Shaker song “Simple Gifts” that Copland drew upon in the most famous portion of the suite. Since many people unfortunately know this tune only in its bastardized form (as the faux-Celtic “Lord of the Dance”), I want to quote the original lyrics:
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
Amen to that.