by Lily Bane
Reviewed by Kailey Favaro
In 2016, St. Olaf College’s literary journal The Quarry featured Lily Bane’s poem on the raw beauty of nature. In “Sunlight,” Bane parallels her own experience as an artist with the creation of the world around her. Bane writes about nature in a visceral rather than beautiful way, using vivid descriptions of the environment to showcase the artistic process.
As Lily Bane studied Environmental Studies at St. Olaf College, she respects and gains inspiration from the Earth around her. In her poem, she seems to be making a connection between creating poetry and the evolving world. Nature works as art works, Bane seems to say. It all starts at the beginning, the “Genesis.” A creator starts with an idea that yawns into existence. Bane, through almost humanistic imagery, implies that art, like nature, is a living, breathing entity. “Ribs ripped from heaving chests with bloody tenderness,” the poem declares. Bane’s imagery, “ribs ripped open,” at first feels a bit graphic. Yet, when an idea forms from inside a creator’s mind, it can be vicious, yearning for a way out.
Bane, as a creator herself, wants to emphasize the passion involved in creating art. As the poem continues, she shows how an idea, originally just a spark in an artist’s mind, evolves. It flourishes much like nature’s “carnage and growth.” Eventually, from this Big Bang, the idea inside an artist’s imagination develops into a piece of art.
This poem is written in three stanzas. It begins with specific elements of nature and then grows until it encapsulates the creation of the entire galaxy through its mention of the stars. Its scope gets bigger with every word but then narrows in its final line: “where one morning, a girl will write a poem and the sunlight be true.” This line seems out of place in its jarring return to a narrow perspective. It also switches from first person to third person with the “I” changing to “a girl.” Bane attempts to sentimentally refer to the ending of her own artistic process. However, the last line feels more antiquated than inspirational. It isn’t the ending this poem deserves.
A noteworthy element of Lily Bane’s “Sunlight” is its form as both an ode to nature and an ode to artists. Bane points out her own artistry in poetry, but also pays homage to other art forms. When she writes that nature paints in “sunrise paint pallets meant to color the sky” she brings attention to painters creating visual artwork. Likewise, her description of how stars “move with explosive dancing” recognizes physical artistry through dance. I think this inclusion of all different types of artistry has power. It makes this poem not just about poetry or a girl who writes a poem but about creation in general. It attempts to answer the question not just how a poem develops but how art comes into being.
“Sunlight” was later adapted into a choral piece by J.W. Keckley. It was performed by the St. Olaf College Manitou Singers in 2017. To listen to the performance, click here.
“Sunlight” by Lily Bane was originally published in the 2016 edition of The Quarry.
Click here for the link to the original poem.