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Archive for the ‘Galway Kinnell’ Category

Valentine’s Day spending is up 6% this year over last even though fewer people are celebrating. Sad!

 

Poems, of course, are the perfect antidote to the menace of all-consuming consumerism slouching towards Bethlehem. Poems cost nothing to give and last forever. Here’s a few to share with your lover, your mother, your friend or even a stranger, why not?

 

I’ll begin with a poem for mothers, Christina Rossetti’s “Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome” which I left near a mailbox.

 

Would that I had use for that mailbox. Would that I still had a mother to send a Valentine’s card to. No stamp, no hugs, no kisses, just an ache to remember her, my first Love, as Rossetti calls her mother, my loadstar while I come and go. Still, this description of a mother’s love is a comfort—

whose blessed glow transcends the laws

  Of time and change and mortal life and death.

 

 

 

Fortunately most of my friends are still living and for them I left 19th-century novelist and poet Dinah Maria Craik’s “Friendship.” I taped it to a fencepost enclosing two horses companionably eating grass.

 

Craik uses the image of sifting grain to capture the ease of conversing with a true friend—

Having neither to weigh thoughts,

Nor measure words—but pouring them

All right out—just as they are—

 

 

 

On to the lover’s portion of this post. I put Catherine Doty’s “Yes” on a bench overlooking the ever-romantic Hanalei Bay, just after a heavy downpour.

 

Another kind of downpour is happening in the poem. Blood and nerves and joints and various body parts are overrun with desire. Come/here indeed.

 

 

 

For those without a beloved this Valentine’s Day, poet Paul Laurence Dunbar has you covered with his hopeful “Invitation to Love.” I taped it to a fence on favorite overlook of mine. Waves crash against the cliffs in high spray and red-footed boobies cover the hills like flowers. The lighthouse in the distance works with the poem to create a beacon of hope to those at sea in the world. Yeah, I really like this spot.

 

Dunbar is ready for love anytime, anywhere:

Come when the summer gleams and glows

Come with the winter’s drifting snows,

  And you are welcome, welcome.

 

 

 

“After Making Love We Hear Footsteps” might strike you as unromantic, but in poet Galway Kinnell’s hands it becomes most tender and even sensual. I left it on a stop sign, which is probably about as effective in keeping out trespassers as Kinnell’s closed door is at stopping his son from barging in his bedroom.

 

Most parents face this scenario—a kid plopping down between his startled and possibly interrupted parents—but it takes a poet to elevate the interruption into a homecoming of sorts—

this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,

sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,

this blessing love gives again into our arms.

 

 

 

I’ve got two poems for lost love. The first, David Ignatow’s “That’s the Sum of It,” I left in a junkyard.

poem is on white dishwasher with black top 

The loss of his wife and car have put the speaker in a catch-22 situation. The speaker’s tone is light but the ache is always present, like here, when he wishes to visit his children

when they

are not too busy.

 

 

 

The second poem of lost love takes its sweet time getting to the heart of it, touring through Rome and taking in the sights. I left Charlie Smith’s “Crostatas” at a scenic overlook of mountains and taro fields.

poem is on. drone sign

 

He’s one depressed tourist—

flowers like eyeballs dabbed in blood and the big ruins

said do it my way pal

—and the reason becomes clear only in the last lines.

 

 

 

Finally, a Valentine anyone can enjoy, a love poem to the universe. “Dusting,” by Marilyn Nelson, begins with a thank you (in my reading, to the Creator, but take it as you will) and spills over with wonder and joy for life itself, for dust. I left it on a beach a few feet from the ocean where it all begins.

 

Somehow the scientific language makes the poetic sensibility all the more ecstatic—

For algae spores

and fungus spores

bonded by vital

mutual genetic cooperation

 

 

May we all be bonded in mutual genetic cooperation!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

 

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little poem is just above the grass next to the spigot

Hide-and-Seek, 1933

by Galway Kinnell


Once when we were playing

hide-and-seek and it was time

to go home, the rest gave up

on the game before it was done

and forgot I was still hiding.

I remained hidden as a matter

of honor until the moon rose.

I was in Annapolis for a sisters’ weekend, and after mass at the Naval Academy Chapel, I taped this little poem to Sampson Hall, home to the English and History departments. I love the Academy–my recently deceased father was a midshipman (he graduated in Jimmy Carter’s class) and taught physics there for 18 years.  (I also have 2 gentle giant nephews who go there.)

My initial thought was that the midshipmen and women might enjoy this reminder of childhood.  There’s absolutely nothing childish about the strapping young men I saw walking around Annapolis that weekend—spotless even on leave, and dang, they look handsome in the their Navy whites.  Those uniformed middies are the most purposeful, serious group of college kids you’ll ever see.  But the poem points out that childhood games are serious too, played with an earnestness we adults overlook when we use the phrase “child’s play”  to signify unimportant work.

This was also the weekend of the annual St. John’s-Navy croquet match.  St. John’s, a 226-year old college in Annapolis, is a perfect foil to the Academy.  The students at St. John’s tend to be alternative, intellectual and not necessarily athletic.  While the mids at the Academy are learning underwater acoustics, their counterparts are studying the Great Books and Greek.  The croquet match, like Kinnell’s hide-and-seek game, is light-hearted at the outset, but the St. John’s team plays to win and usually does.

The more I thought about the poem at the Naval Academy, another idea caught my fancy:  the idea of honor.  Honor, for the child in the poem, is continuing to do what one has committed to even when it serves no purpose.  Is that a childish notion, one we outgrow, or an honorable one?  What is honorable for soldiers who no longer believe in the wars they fight in?  Kinnell served in the Navy himself, and later became active in the civil rights movement (a cause my dad supported) and in the Vietnam War protests (one he did not).

My father loved the Navy, and served with honor, but he left after 15 years, in part because he didn’t agree with how the Navy was handling nuclear waste, an action which I consider most honorable.

Gee, that’s a lot of words for a 7-line poem.

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