I’ve been reading C K Williams’s ninth collection, The Singing (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003), for which he received the 2003 National Book Award. The four part volume includes meditations on family, relationships, aging, mortality and bereavement. The final section concerns terrorism, destruction and the nature of civilization.
I am awed by ‘The Hearth’, a reflection on war, moved by the tender ‘Elegy for an Artist’ dedicated to Tucson painter Bruce McGrew and, in the final stanza of ‘Lessons’ (previously published in Tin House), find five lines particularly striking in their honesty and simplicity:
” … And the way one can find oneself strewn
so inattentively across life, across time.
Those who touch us, those whom we touch,
we hold them or we let them go
as though it were such a small matter.”
There’s a flare of recognition every time I read these words. This recognition, this resonance, this fleeting identification and connection with a stranger, is one of the reasons I read poetry.
“Most writers spend much of their time in various kinds of torment: wanting to write, being unable to write; wanting to write differently, being unable to write differently. In a whole lifetime, years are spent waiting to be claimed by an idea … It is a life dignified, I think, by yearning, not made serene by sensations of achievement.”
– Louise Glück, from “Education of the Poet” (Proofs & Theories)
“I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.”
– Wallace Stevens, from ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’
“It is true there is not enough beauty in the world.
It is also true that I am not competent to restore it.
Neither is there candor, and here I may be of some use.”
– Louise Glück, from “October”
Averno (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006)
“A poem is a place where the conditions of beyondness and withinness are made palpable, where to imagine is to feel what it is to be. It allows us to have the life we are denied because we are too busy living. Even more paradoxically, poetry permits us to live in ourselves as if we were just out of reach of ourselves.”
– Mark Strand
“Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries.”
– Theodore Roethke
“I’ve never written the things I’d like to write that I’ve admired all my life. Maybe one never does.”
– Elizabeth Bishop, The Paris Review Interviews, I (Canongate, 2007)
“These trees stand very tall under the heavens.
While they stand, if I walk, all stars traverse
This steep celestial gulf their branches chart.
Though lovers stand at sixes and at sevens
While civilizations come down with the curse,
Snodgrass is walking through the universe.”
– W D Snodgrass, from “These Trees Stand …”
(Heart’s Needle, 1959)
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, William De Witt Snodgrass, died this morning after a four-month battle with inoperable lung cancer.
Read more about W D Snodgrass here.
Read “Heart’s Needle” here.
Read Ms Baroque’s wonderful post about W D Snodgrass here.
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,–so with his memory they brim!
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!
– Edna St Vincent Millay