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.

Advertisements

Poem of things I’m not doing (mine).

Rhyming Things I Am Never Doing With My Friends

 

Drinking cherry schnapps

in bikini tops

 

Picking out the best pajamas

beside a pair of just-married llamas

 

Waving atop a zamboni

as I eat a sandwich of cheese & baloney

 

Partaking in a teen movie montage

while gluing an aspirational collage

 

Eating a spoonful of mustard

as I slather my thighs with custard

 

“Summer Simmer” (summertime flowertime poem) (mine).

Summer Simmer

 

Soil air sky breeze

available now

no lease no

contract all

yours & always

open free &

more where

that came from

Jeez you’d think

we’d be cherishing

all this so hard

by now (picture

it: generations

of women

& men in love

with earth)

but no

we are shitting

on it more

than ever &

convinced of

the truth

of machines

You know

what I think

technology is

mostly harmful

also ugly &

expensive unlike

these patches of

black-eyed Susans

dancing from the base

of their stalks up

to the petals

in the fields

all around me

 

“You Make Love Like the Last Snow Leopard” (poem) (Paige Taggart).

You Make Love Like the Last Snow Leopard

You make love like the last
snow leopard. Time hunts your shadows.
Your grooves dip a real x of an arc.
I love your shadow. It’s performance on the wall.

Your white hair flocked. It’s old age that makes
you kill for food. You bring a long blank to
bed in, the weight draws out.

You need someone with skill for the excursion.
Ride through the reservoir of sour peaches.
Your name meanders through the grass. Tall
people are in the way. I crowd surf to get to you.

You spill me into the flood. Water rushes out your sides.

You make a mystery of playing political love.
I could kill for you. I’d bring you an eagle stuffed
with finches. It’s pouch growing large and groaning
in your palm. A cliff of umbrellas and memory
shaping your every move.

 

-Paige Taggart

 

***

PS: If you buy her book, let me know, so we can talk about it, because I want to buy it, too. And I will definitely want to talk about it.

PPS: August is my marathon month. For most of the month, my poems will likely sound like

 

I’m tired

and so are my legs

and I’m thirsty

and maybe my legs are thirsty too

Either way

I want to go to sleep

 

 

…and so I will probably be posting other people’s poems this month. But then again, who knows–maybe the tired poems will cross over into the psychedelic side of things, and become really awesome. I am very open to that possibility.

Poem of this weekend (poem of many things) (mine).

This Weekend

 

One red felt hat three pairs of boots three

pairs of fancy low-but-clicking pairs

of shoes two bikinis one Boy Scout

backpack one pair of light light blue

Levi’s mom jeans one white lacey

t-shirt three slips one long salmon

-colored nightgown one silk periwinkle

top seven pairs of stockings one pair

of socks with flowers on them one pair

of sparkly pink socks one tiny purple

apothecary jar three bandanas one jean

skirt that Jessie from Saved by the Bell

would have worn one black dress given

to a pregnant friend two quarts of pickled

radishes one red dahl maybe two dozen

elderflower heads one busting bag full

of dried wild mint three sunflowers now

blooming four iris stems in a lilac-colored

jar one thousand pieces of Israeli

cous cous one iced coffee in a big red

cup one hay fork two axes one double

-size cast iron griddle three checks

made out to Free Verse Farm twenty

pounds of strawberries two containers

of curried chickpeas one batch of basil

hummus one can of IPA six tins of tea

two tinctures six jars of no-cook

strawberry jam one goal scored

by Germany one three egg omelette

with scapes & onions one black fly bite

one phone call with sis one phone call

with Katie one phone call with dad

one shower two dirty feet four clean

pillowcases and one lightswitch switched—

 

A marriage poem for abundance (mine).

Abundance

for Scott & Josh

 

There will be days of singing & days of silent throats

There will be days of bouquets & days of empty vases

There will be days of thirst & nights of drinking

There will be raspberry days & days of stale crusts of bread

There will be days of nails in the wall & artless days

There will be harvest days & long nights of winter

There will days to gather & days to await the gathering

May the thin days make the days of fullness all the sweeter

May your fruits be many and your backs be strong

as you launch together

into your days

of abundance

 

July 5, 2014

 

scott and josh first step

(photo of the couple’s first steps toward marriage by Misha M. Johnson)