Mourning for Galway Kinnell, poet & Vermont person.

Maybe it’s just because I’m stretched as thin as cheap stockings right now and prone to emotions, but I cried this morning hearing (again) about the passing of Galway Kinnell.

I learned to love his poems in college, by my professor who loves his poems. When I worked for the Dartmouth bookstore years ago, I sold books at a reading he gave at Dartmouth, sitting next to him as he signed new and wellworn copies. The reading he gave was equal parts wonderful and sad; he often lost his place while reading a poem, or seemed to drift away mid-thought. I witnessed the deteriorating mind of a poet whose poems have meant a lot to me.

His epic poem (note: I do not generally use the word epic so you know I mean it) “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ Into the New World” has so much more of New York in it than Taylor Swift’s new song (that’s not saying a lot), and even more of New York in it than Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ song. He was compared to Walt Whitman after that poem, and I see why: it contains multitudes, big time.

As Daniel Lewis of the New York Times writes, “The poem is a 14-part work about Avenue C in Manhattan, a mother lode of inspiration for someone with Mr. Kinnell’s photographic eye and intuitive sense of other people’s lives. In these verses and on this street, Jews, blacks and Puerto Ricans walked in the spring sunlight, past the avenue’s mainstays at the time — the Downtown Talmud Torah, Blosztein’s Cutrate Bakery, Areceba Panataria Hispano, Nathan Kugler Chicken Store Fresh Killed Daily and others.”

I’ve experienced a renewed love of Kinnell since moving to Vermont, as I read his poems again, many of which are set in this state, such as “Blackberry Eating”:

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths and squinched,
many-lettered, on-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry-eating in late September.

And then there’s this poem, which has always blown my mind. If someone had told me in college that you could write a poem with the word “is” used three times in a row and it would be a stunner, I would not have believe him/her.

Prayer

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

kinnell

Harriet Richardson, a Student Organizer at Pennsylvania’s Juniata College, Presses a Cloth to the Wounds of Galway Kinnell, Who Was Then Poet-In-Residence at Juiata, Selma, Alabama, 1965.

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Tiny revelation poem (mine).

Something I’ve Learned From Author Photos

 

I don’t have the right glasses

to be successful.

glasses ilya     glasses matthew dickman

  glasses ted berrigan        glasses allen ginsberg

 glasses ali warren      glasses kay ryan

Yesterday’s morning poem (mine).

Just your average morning shoving

 

three goatbutts into a bright blue Kia

then heading off to work. I drive

along the first branch of a river,

past brandnew calves, sideways barns,

and the sign that reads FROST HEAVE

AHEAD which no one’s taken down

because just seeing it makes the green

of the pastures an even sweeter sight.

The silos this morning are brimming

with the years they’ve seen, the guineas

bold enough to eat the grass that runs

along the road, and the local library

has its OPEN flag highfiving the wind.

On days like this, it feels like everyone

and their mother is pushing a wellworn

wheelbarrow in the direction of joy.

 

tumblr_n3veydH5XL1rnc3y3o1_500

 

(That image is a poemjoke. Do you get it?)

 

Hanging with friends beneath lightbulbs (& other details).

Kenneth Koch! Why didn’t anyone ever tell me to read him before?! He makes me laugh! Here’s the only poem of his I knew of before the other night when I got really into reading him. It’s his perfect joke on William Carlos Williams:

Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams

1
I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

2
We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

3
I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the
next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

4
Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

4-2-13_BerskonJohn Ashberry, Frank O’Hara, Patsy Southgate, Bill Berkson, Kenneth Koch., 1964 (photo by Mario Schifano)

 

In other news, I should not be allowed to use eBay. eBay is not a conversation. It’s not, You want this item? Cool! What do you like about it? Wanna think about buying it? eBay is YOU BOUGHT IT.  (I may have just bought two purses by accident. I definitely bought one by accident.) Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing. 

In other other news, it’s a good thing I have two bathtubs, because one of them is filled with 15 peeping baby chicks. Photos to follow. Kate suggested we dress them up and take pictures of them and give them names and personalities. Yeah….probably gonna do that.

So spring is here because of little yellow chicks, and also because of this beautiful, good-smelling, blooming hyacinth that I was given for my birthday. Otherwise, spring is still hibernating.

 

IMG_2047

 

Poem for Kerouac; poem out loud (mine) (you can listen to it).

Jack Kerouac’s word world is totally different than mine. He’s all

bellhop

coat rack

campaign

buttonhole

ventriloquist

pince-nez

morphine

silhouette

& etc.

His words aren’t mine but I’d be a damn fool not to try some out. Here’s a poem I wrote on the couch on Kerouac’s birthday. Not an homage, more like a drunken text I’m sending him through time-and-space, saying, Hey, man. Next year: let’s celebrate our birthdays together. Next year: we’ll dance.

***

On Kerouac’s Birthday

When it comes to billiards I hear mathematics

is rather relevant so I better stay away.

Today on Chelsea Street the oblong “OPEN”

sign that hangs for all to see just sat

inside the storefront like a half-forgotten

letter. With weather like this even a goat

can get pants fulla ants: ready to kid,

to be ridda all this bald white stuff,

she might just sidle into an epidemic

bout of idleness. I tried to call my sis

“Swiss Miss” but she didn’t like the name.

It’s just her darn-cute ponytail & white

toothed grin I want to emulate, to raise

high above the roof beams, Seymour,

to the heights where garlic dries in summer.

Summer in the city means cleavage, cleavage,

cleavage, & the smell of sewage everywhere.

Pigs can clear the forest with their hooves

& bums I got to know out west can’t hear me

now, can’t see me now, can’t stop me now.

 

picture-695

[photo by Allen Ginsberg]

 

Teacher in my mailbox (Ilya Kaminsky).

I went to San Diego State to study with Ilya Kaminsky, and I do not regret it one bit. Yesterday, the Academy of American Poets dropped off a new poem of his in my inbox. It made me glad and it made me miss school and I drank up the poem like a glass of fresh-pressed juice.

***

A Toast

 

To your voice, a mysterious virtue,

to the 53 bones of one foot, the four dimensions of breathing,

 

to pine, redwood, sworn-fern, peppermint,

to hyacinth and bluebell lily,

 

to the train conductor’s donkey on a rope,

to smells of lemons, a boy pissing splendidly against the trees.

 

Bless each thing on earth until it sickens,

until each ungovernable heart admits: “I confused myself

 

and yet I loved–and what I loved

I forgot, what I forgot brought glory to my travels,

 

to you I traveled as close as I dared, Lord.”

 

Poem for every person (Derek Walcott).

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

-Derek Walcott

***