June 25, 2018

"My extremely intelligent wife was more mathematical than literary. We lived together and we grew apart."

"For the only time in my life, I cherished social gatherings: Ann Arbor’s culture of cocktail parties. I found myself looking forward to weekends, to crowded parties that permitted me distance from my marriage. There were two or three such occasions on Friday and more on Saturday, permitting couples to migrate from living room to living room. We flirted, we drank, we chatted–without remembering on Sunday what we said Saturday night. After sixteen years of marriage, my wife and I divorced. For five years I was alone again, but without the comfort of solitude. I exchanged the miseries of a bad marriage for the miseries of bourbon. I dated a girlfriend who drank two bottles of vodka a day. I dated three or four women a week, occasionally three in a day. My poems slackened and stopped. I tried to think that I lived in happy license. I didn’t...."

The prose of the poet Donald Hall, published in 2016 by the New Yorker, highlighted now because he died on Saturday. He was 89. Here's the NYT obituary — "Mr. Hall was one of the leading poets of his generation, frequently mentioned in the company of Robert Bly, James Wright and Galway Kinnell. In evoking a bucolic New England past and expressing a deep veneration of nature, he used simple and direct language, though often to surreal effect."

94 comments:

sparrow said...

such a sad life story for someone so accomplished

Etienne said...

Never heard of him.

Anyway, I hate alcoholics. I hate the women they date. I hate their politics. I hate poets. I hate alcoholic poets more. I hate publishers of alcoholic poets. I hate New England. I hate Yankees. I hate Virginians, I hate Virginian hate restaurants. I hate women owners of Virginian hate restaurants. I hate black politician women who encourage hate restaurants.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

My extremely intelligent wife was more mathematical than literary.

All extremely intelligent people are. The more literary people aren't intelligent enough to realize that.

Karen said...

Running away from problems rather than working to solve them always creates more problems that are often even more intractable.

Balfegor said...

Took a look at some of his poems. They seem a bit precious to me, not really my cup of tea. I prefer Donald Justice. Perhaps that's just a bad selection of Hall's work at Poetry Foundation. The selection for Justice includes none of my favourites (which is why I linked to Poem Hunter instead).

Earnest Prole said...

This photo of him says it all. Rest in Peace.

Alex said...

I dated a girlfriend who drank two bottles of vodka a day.

I don't think that woman lived very long. I mean seriously, how fucked up is your life to be literally killing your liver like that? It's a fast suicide.

Henry said...

Interesting. That was his first wife. Jane Kenyon was his second wife. They were married for 23 years until she died of cancer in 1995.

Teller said...

Etienne: like your hates.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

"I dated a girlfriend who drank two bottles of vodka a day."

Yikes.

You can drink to two bottles of vodka in a day and not die from acute alcohol poisoning? A woman, even?

I ask as someone who never drinks hard liquor. Can you get your liver over time to gradually increase ADH production to the point that you have enough of the enzyme to (sort of) handle that level of alcohol, so that you die a slow rather than a quick death from alcohol abuse?

Two-eyed Jack said...

Do people read poetry? I thought that it served primarily to fill extra space in The New Yorker when they couldn't sell enough ads. If you add white space to any random sentence you get a poem. For example:

Bad “Matrix” was
The stuff of the sequels,
Where the characters were
Stranded in spare white spaces,
Exchanging crude exposition in a
Desperate attempt to
Bring
The audience up to speed.

--Ian Crouch

buwaya said...

I like everybody, even Etienne.

SDaly said...

All extremely intelligent people are alike in their unhappiness. Each ignoramus is unhappy in his own way.

buwaya said...

People used to publish poetry in newspapers and popular magazines, and people used to read it. Volumes of poetry could be best-sellers.

Consider Macaulay's "Lays of Ancient Rome"

Literacy has declined however.

Balfegor said...

RE: Two-eyed Jack:

Do people read poetry? I thought that it served primarily to fill extra space in The New Yorker when they couldn't sell enough ads.

I read poetry. I didn't much care for it when I was young -- read a bit of Shakespeare, and a bit of Tennyson, but the long-form narrative stuff like The Song of Hiawatha was totally uninteresting to me, and modernist stuff like Howl just seemed a mishmash of tedious BS. Milton I found readable, but enjoyed mostly for Satan's soliloquys towards the start. But I've since found my niche, as it were. Among 20th century poets, I like Larkin and Justice. I suppose Yeats edges in there, although he's from a different, earlier generation. In the 19th century, I like Tennyson, Swinburne, Keats, Shelly, but the only long-form 19th century poetry I have ever actually enjoyed is Tennyson's Idyll's of the King. I've never even tried to read Prometheus Unbound -- I'm satisfied with the snippets that everyone excerpts, like the famous last lines:

To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change, nor flatter, nor repent;
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.


I can recite a bit of poetry from memory, mostly shorter poems. I can probably do Ulysses (though I always hesitate at the pronunciation of "Hyades" -- Hayadeez?) and The Whitsun Weddings, but those are the longest I've committed to memory.

Unknown said...

My extremely intelligent wife was more mathematical than literary.

My first thought was That sounds like a mnemonic!

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pumpkins.

Cooke said...

I like quite a bit of his poetry, but I knew Donald Hall best from one of his literature textbooks--To Read Literature--and from one of his children's books--The Ox-Cart Man. For professional and personal reasons I've read both books many, many times and never been bored. RIP.

Balfegor said...

My link to Howl is broken. Sorry. There's people who like it, but honestly, does anyone ever remember anything but the first line?

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

I also forgot but I like Eliot too, I suppose. Hollow Men, The Wasteland, Ash Wednesday, Four Quartets, and of course, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. I like cats. Actually, I like quite lot of Eliot, but not as much as I used to.

buwaya said...

I'm a philistine. I've liked the funny, rackety stuff. Tennyson and Kipling.
And short, if possible.
Garcia Lorca is ideal on that score.

But even that is not done now.

In US schools it is quite common to have the kids write free-form poetry, and there is a big emphasis on "poetry slams", which are in the main, IMHO, teenage whine-fests and performance art.

Bill Peschel said...

I liked quoting from a few memorized poems, like Oxymandias, but I never kept it up. I can quote vast swatches from Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" and "Captain Fastastic":

There was a face on a hoarding
that someone had drawn on.
And just about time for the night to pass by
without warning
Away in the distance, there's a blue flashing light
Someone's in trouble, somewhere tonight.
And the cigarette haze has ecology beat
As the whores and the drunks filed in from the street.

Cause the steams in the boiler, the coal's in the fire
If you ask how I am then I'll just say inspired.
For the thorn of the rose is the thorn in your side.
And you're better off dead if you haven't yet died.


Just off the top of my head and probably got a few phrases wrong.

Now, reading Hall's poems at the poetry foundation site, I laughed at this one:

POEM BEGINNING WITH A
LINE OF WITTGENSTEIN

The world is everything that is the case.
Now stop your blubbering and wash your face.

I would have given everything to see that delivered at the Democratic National Convention.

Balfegor said...

RE: buwaya:

In US schools it is quite common to have the kids write free-form poetry, and there is a big emphasis on "poetry slams", which are in the main, IMHO, teenage whine-fests and performance art.

Ugh. There's also that poet voice people do . . .

buwaya said...

I have always reacted badly to the first line of "Howl" - the best minds of his generation? Those guys? What ignorant arrogance. The best minds were far away from Ginsberg. They were of a sort inconceivable to Ginsberg. You could write poetry about them, but you would first have to emerge from that ghetto.

Maybe I am too literal.

Etienne said...

French love song:

I hate you then I love you,
yes I love you and I hate you, and then I love you.
In any case, I feel mad, mad, madly happy,
nestled in your arms.

That's pretty good hate poetry...

buwaya said...

One reason for the collapse of poetry I think is the intense personalization of literature. Its all "I", not "that". Its not about anything external to the self, or that at least is the usual case in the approach the schools use.

Big Mike said...

@Etienne, would you like to come out to the great Shenandoah Valley and tell me to my face that you hate Virginians?

A couple years back when the wife and I were packing up the library to move to our new home I discovered my old poetry books. Khalil Gibran and Rod McKuen will take one a long way with the women. Or they did a half century ago. Today’s millennial females would be listening for a microaggression.

Bay Area Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buwaya said...

When I was in college Kahlil Gibran was a great favorite with the chicks.
So faking familiarity with that stuff was useful.

I believe the modern equivalent is Rumi.

rhhardin said...

I wonder what a poet means by "more mathematical."

Like a short man describing somebody as tall.

Bay Area Guy said...

My extremely intelligent wife was more mathematical than literary. We lived together and we grew apart.

That's a funny way to describe one's wife. It's a kinda cruelly neutral. Where's the verve? Where's the love? I guess the liberal, high-brow, literary world is a bit different than my world.

If I am fortunate to live to 89, I would say something like this:

"My wife was hot and enjoyed giving blow jobs. She was less mathematical than literary, but did a decent job balancing our books. We lived together and stayed together, mostly because she had a good sense of humor, kept fit and was a great mother to our kids."

Gordon Scott said...

Bill Clinton's way of making a pass was to give a copy of Whitman's Leaves of Grass. There's a lotta gals out there with a copy.

Ugh. There's also that poet voice people do . . .

Transgender voice is worse.



rehajm said...

Condolences to his family and friends. Never heard of him.

Mike Sylwester said...

The Song of Hiawatha is a wonderful epic poem.

Sebastian said...

You know what I'd like to read?

Althouse fisking Jori Graham.

I mean, I'd use the Amazon Portal every day for a whole week, at least.

Balfegor said...

Re: Etienne:

That's pretty good hate poetry...

But the best is:

I do not love thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why, I cannot tell,
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not love thee, Doctor Fell


Or in the original,

Non te amo, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare
Hoc tantum possum dicere: no amo te


The English rolls more trippingly off the tongue, I think.

Two-eyed Jack said...

I occasionally read dead poets. Tennyson, Coleridge, Keats, Yeats, Donne, etc. I find that reading more than one poem a day tends to detract from the experience.
I have not found living poets rewarding in general (although I do like Billy Collins, if he's not too "poets for people who hate poetry" for me to admit a liking for). Most current poets have lost the ability to speak memorably without appearing pretentious, so they tend to write twee or obscure.

No one memorizes poems anymore, so no one actually involves themselves in the word choices of the poet. This renders them, effectively, prose.

robother said...

The Ox-Cart Man was one of my favorites to read to daughter and then grandchildren.

Otto said...

Another loser from UM from the late 50s radical period . I googled famous UM alumni and the first person mentioned is Madonna. Ugh. Not one scientist from the list of top alumni.

Balfegor said...

RE: Two-eyed Jack:

No one memorizes poems anymore, so no one actually involves themselves in the word choices of the poet. This renders them, effectively, prose.

Older poems do need to be read aloud for the proper effect, even if you don't memorize them. Even some modern poems need to be read aloud (haha).

Two-eyed Jack said...

Actually, when I say no one memorizes poetry anymore, I mean "high-culture" poetry. People do memorize "low-culture" poetry like this:

Rah, gimme my check
Put some respeck on my check
Or pay me in equity, pay me in equity
Or watch me reverse out the dick (skrrt)

buwaya said...

The most important element in literature isn't the writer but the reader.
Great things happen only when there are people to write for.

But the readers don't get Nobel prizes!

Howard said...

buwaya puti: Yes, art must be transcendent. Paradoxically, if the artist thinks about the consumer, their product is ephemeral, derivative, etc.

Cooke said...

There are still places in America where children learn to memorize the poetry of the past. My daughter goes to a small Catholic classical education school. This year the 7/8 grade English class memorized:

the Our Father in Anglo-Saxon
The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson
Ozymandias by Shelley
When I Consider How My Light Was Spent by Milton
Up-Hill by Christina Rossetti
I Wandered Lovely as a Cloud by Wordsworth
Loveliest of Trees by Housman
Destruction of Sennacherib by Byron
Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson
Pied Beauty by Hopkins
and two speeches from the Merchant of Venice.

Oh, and they put on a production of Twelfth Night.

PS They also studied ballads, sonnets, Beowulf, The Sword in the Stone, A Christmas Carol, and Jane Eyre. And diagram sentences.

Cooke said...

Argh--I Wandered LONELY as a Cloud.

Bay Area Guy said...

I'm pretty much a philistine when it comes to poetry.

I appreciate the talent and skill and creativity that comes with, but, I, myself, however can't write it and lack the patience to read much of it.

I will say that Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" -- is and remains a piece of dreck.

I do read a lot of books, though, both novels and non-fiction. So, I have that going for me.

Fernandistein said...

The boy stood on the lovely cloud.

two bottles of vodka a day

I know a guy who died from vodka ...
"How To Manage Depression With TV And Alcohol"
... but he didn't watch TV.

traditionalguy said...

I would say not to fear the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The City of Lexington is a gem. They are infested with a few ultra-liberals from the elite Washington and Lee College. But the culture is still very friendly. There are many good full size restaurants that usually have VMI Cadet Officers bringing in their dates on the weekend.

And Lexington is in the heart of Scots-Irish heritage in America.

Michael said...

Some measure the arc of their lives by the deaths of movie stars, wincing when they learn they were only a few years older. I Measure mine by the poets of my youth now mostly gone. Wright and Kenyon,Merlin and Berryman,Strand and Merrill, Larkin and Lowell and Wilbur and now Hall.
Memento Mori.

Sebastian said...

Thesis: It's easier to talk about books than about poems you haven't read.

traditionalguy said...

As a Divorce Lawyer once, we see that the alcoholics are usually fun people to live with, until the spouse wakes up one day and says, "Never Again."

But he made it sound like his wife was being mean to him. I bet her version of the story is the more sympathetic one.

Michael said...

Cooke
Very good to hear. We are so conditioned to believe we have hit the end of the cultural,road it is nice to see these flickers of hope, resistance.

Two-eyed Jack said...

If you are interested in writing poetry, I think Stephen Frye's "The Ode Less Travelled" and Ted Kooser's The Poetry Home Repair Manual are both quite helpful.

I would recommend them to readers of poetry as well.

Owen said...

RIP Donald Hall. And a second RIP to another recent great loss, Seamus Heaney.

Buwaya: "...intense personalization of literature." Interesting comment. I see poetry as the nearest thing to music that we can with words, and music is both intensely personalized and completely abstracted, without ego. Poetry done well, IMHO, takes the power of emotion and marries it to language that is indirect, allusive, mysterious. Sometimes it is straight-up declamation, a simple exhortation or argument (but even then made powerful by rhythm and rhyme and metaphor) but often it is exploring some interior state and tie it to something "out there," in the world. The trick IMHO is to do that without just whimpering and whining (or exulting) about ME ME ME.

That selfish/narcissistic mode is too common always, and especially today.

Michael said...

Owen
I agree that poetry and music share much on the emotional and technical levels. You put it well.

BTW the bit that Althouse chose to highlight is odd. The entire piece by Hall is worth reading. Quite moving.

Amexpat said...

One reason for the collapse of poetry I think is the intense personalization of literature.

I think the main reason for the collapse of poetry was the importance of lyrics in popular music in the 60's. Dylan is the main "culprit". Horace Engdahl, in the award ceremony speech for the 2016 Nobel Prize, stated it well:" All of a sudden, much of the bookish poetry in our world felt anaemic,...".

EDH said...

"he used simple and direct language, though often to surreal effect..."

We had lunch, eating sandwiches and walking around without speaking to each other. Afterward, we took a twenty-minute nap, gathering energy for the rest of the day, and woke to our daily fuck. Afterward I felt like cuddling, but Jane’s climax released her into energy. She hurried from bed to workroom.

Feel free to omit such detail about the goings-on at Meadehouse.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Mr. Hall was one of the leading drunken boor poets of his generation...

FIFY

Two-eyed Jack said...

I think that one should not confound "poetry" with "a particular effect that some poets have been able to pull off."
"The Charge of the Light Brigade" does not marry an emotion with language that is allusive and mysterious.

Poetry is choosing particular words carefully to create effects while raising in the reader or listener an awareness that the poet is working within a framework of rules. It has this in common with music (and with flower arrangements and garden design), but it ties concrete thoughts and imagery to this (hopefully) emotion-inducing structure, rather than ineffable reactions.

Bay Area Guy said...

I prefer music to poetry. I would say that music is poetry. I enjoy playing guitar or listening to classical or jazz music. It definitely creates a sense of peace at the center.

Maybe, I will give poetry a fair chance when I retire. But when I read, I'm mostly looking for facts or humor, and I haven't found that in poetry yet.

Robert Cook said...

"I'm pretty much a philistine when it comes to poetry.

"I will say that Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl' -- is and remains a piece of dreck."


If you're a philistine when it comes to poetry--as I am--how can you presume to judge any poem?

Bay Area Guy said...

@Cook,

If you're a philistine when it comes to poetry--as I am--how can you presume to judge any poem?

I'm not presuming to judge any poem (I presume you're referring to my opinion about that piece of dreck, "Howl"). I am offering my inexpert opinion on "Howl." It sucks.

Anybody can have an opinion on anything. The quality and factual basis for said opinion is another matter.

Why bog yourself down on trivial matters?

Jupiter said...

White Apples

when my father had been dead a week
I woke
with his voice in my ear
I sat up in bed

and held my breath
and stared at the pale closed door

white apples and the taste of stone

if he called again
I would put on my coat and galoshes

Donald Hall

Jupiter said...

No punctuation. Pretentious line breaks. What the fuck is a "white apple"? And "galoshes"? There's a word that staggers off the tongue.

Good poem, though.

Kevin said...

Bart:
A man drink like that and he don't eat, he is going to DIE.

Jim:
When?

Roughcoat said...

Yeats, Hopkins, Tennyson, Browning, Kipling, Wordsworth, Eliot, Stevens.

T.P. Cameron Wilson for one poem, “Magpies in Picardy”; and Macaulay for “Lays of Ancient Rome”.

We studied them all in high school, and studied them intensively; those are my favorites, more or less in that order, maybe Yeats and Hopkins in a tie for first.

I know there are others that will occur to me.

Roughcoat said...

The most important element in literature isn't the writer but the reader.

That's a very post-modern stance, the primacy of the reader.

Two-eyed Jack said...

A Poem:

I'm not presuming to judge
Any poem.
I am offering my inexpert opinion
On "Howl."
It sucks.

Anybody can have an opinion
On anything.
The quality and factual basis
For said opinion is
Another matter.

Why bog yourself down on trivial matters?

Bay Area Guy said...

Bart:
You need any help?

Jim:

Oh......all I can get.

Unknown said...

I would lay odds the most widely read American poet is Dr. Seuss.

And The Sleep Book is a masterpiece that rolls on like a locomotive while negotiating dangerous curves that you have to be ready for. And it works.

(Don't know why I2 didn't pay for the real version..)

Bay Area Guy said...

I would argue that the entire movie, Blazing Saddles, was an epic poem on par with Ulysses.

Meade said...

There once was a man named Etienne
And he told his wife, I hate every man
And she said, Eh, never heard of him.

Roughcoat said...

There once was a Meade from Nantucket...

Owen said...

So here is a bad poem, with mostly observation and some emotional dry-point, not much obvious music.

The Air Man

Hard rain today
At the new home
For the old folks
Some of whom hope
Next week to see
Memorial Day

They have earned it
Some of them fighting
In one of our wars
All of them fighting
To catch their breath
In rain or in shine
Ever since their breath began

What they might need
Is two liters a minute
He says crouching
In his panel van
And working a strap
To nestle home
A clutch of silver cylinders
Their green tops meaning oxygen

The big ones might be good
He guesses for an afternoon
While the little ones
No bigger than a newborn
Could last an hour

The truck is full
Of all these empties
And rain or shine
He'll be back
Tomorrow

Stephen Cooper said...

In England, a little country of a few tens of millions, at one time, not long ago, Kelley and Sheets and Woolsworth and Billy Blake and Lady Bryon's brother and baby Tennyson and the mother of the baby Brontes - all of them - were all alive at the same time. (the Rosettis were more Italian at the time, God bless their hearts, but later on, they were the Pride of England, remember)

There is a lot of poetry in the world, even now. Just listen for it. Obviously, poetry is something humans do, don't make fun of it until you have looked for it and not found it, sincerely

(for the record to the guy who said math people are smarter than literary people - write a poem about that, if you do, I will maybe consider whether you are kidding or not... )

Michael said...

Jupiter
I believe the "white apple" is a White Pippin once grown extensively in New England where Hall lived. Galoshes are what you put on to go outside in the rain when you were a little boy.

Mrs. X said...

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


William Carlos Williams

Meade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meade said...

Roughcoat said...
"There once was a Meade from Nantucket..."

Ate fried cod right out of a bucket

Call him Curly Moe Larry by email

But fuck it if he'll let you call him Ishmael

Unknown said...

We rot in the molds of Venus,
We retch at her tained breath.
Foul are her flooded jungles
Crawling with unclean death.

Harsh bright soil of Luna,
Saturn's rainbow rings.
The freezing night of Titan,
Mercury's Silver springs.

We've tried each spinning space mote
And reckoned its true worth..
Take us back again to the homes of Men
On the cool, green hills of Earth.

The arching sky is calling:
Spaceman ply your trade!
"All hands! Stand by! Free falling!"
And the lights below us fade.

Out goes the race of Earthmen,
Far drives the thundering jet
Out far the sons of Terra
Out far, and farther.. yet..

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth.
Let us rest our eyes on fleecy skies,
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

Jupiter said...

Oh, I know what a galosh is. And I have heard my father often since he died, and seen him a few times, though only while I sleep.

RNB said...

Unknown, 5:15 p.m.

Ah, the Solar System ain't what she used to be!

Bay Area Guy said...

It's been a hard day's
night
and I've been working like a
DOG

It's been a hard day's
night, I should be sleeping like a
LOG

But when I get
HOME
to you I find the things that you
DO
Will make me feel ALRIGHT

Balfegor said...

Re: Unknown:

I don't know why, but I find the last stanza of the poem very affecting. Mentally, there's a category of scenes in scifi I think of as "cool green hills of Earth" moments.

Mrs. X said...

I may have posted the Williams poem here before. Is it great? Dunno, but I like it a lot (and it makes for a nice, short blog comment). I also love Yeats and Shelley unreservedly, Eliot sometimes.

Freeman Hunt said...

White Apples

Who has a poem about the horror of dreaming about someone who has died and waking up to find out that that person is, in fact, still dead? Surely someone has written that. Someone who has had a dream similar to the worst dream I've ever had.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Unknown @5:15 Now THAT is poetry. Brings a tear to the eye. Was going to post about Robert Service, but Heinlein!

Etienne said...

Note on icebox:

Do not eat the plums darling, they are poisonous.
I am going to use them to kill the rats in the basement.

Love Mommy

buwaya said...

That Heinlein piece was written without even the physical inspiration of a launch.

My daughter was inspired to, again, be literary, by seeing a launch at Vandenberg. It was a sort of religious experience for her, that anti-tech arty girl, suddenly getting the family geekiness, the intense romance of it all. Plus Ultra.

I wish I could post it. She's very good.

wildswan said...

Random notes
All my adult life I've wondered why in my own lifetime the poetic tradition ceased to inspire so that there no current contemporary poets whom anyone reads. Before that starting in Provence in the 11C there were poets for almost a thousand years - poets who were enjoyed, memorized, and PURCHASED in their own day and after. And each one inspired those who came after - all the way to TS Eliot, Frost and Yeats and then - blam, no more. "intense personalization" by people with nothing to say? wiped out by Dylan and others? as Amexpat and Buwaya speculate? wiped out by Dylan and others because of intense personalization with nothing to say? I can only add that the university which was founded at the same time is now being wiped out so that the collapse of a contemporary ability to write poetry was a forerunner.

Also I think people are reading poetry in enormous numbers; but they aren't reading it the way where part of the enjoyment is the way you see how the poet is using a tradition. And current poets aren't even using a tradition anyhow, which in my opinion has made them utterly weak. Traditions can revive - that's what the Renaissance was - but we're intensely involved in absorbing the digital revolution. No time, no time.

Anyhow, Americans are good at the practical, we are the ones that got to the moon first. The arts, not so much. If we ever have great art in this country it will be because the black community absorbs and uses and changes and causes to grow, a musical tradition that goes back 400 years, not four.

Earnest Prole said...

That's a funny way to describe one's wife.

Not if she’s your first wife.

Henry said...

Most of the poetry I read now is new translations of old works. We are in a golden age of translations.

Jupiter said...

Freeman Hunt said...

"Who has a poem about the horror of dreaming about someone who has died and waking up to find out that that person is, in fact, still dead? Surely someone has written that."

This perplexes me. My Father is often in my dreams, and these days I am usually aware that I am dreaming. But there is no horror on awakening, only a pleasure in having seen him, and a passing wonder whether it means anything.

It occurs to me, that Hall says
"I woke
with his voice in my ear"

and then

"if he called again".

I have heard my Father's voice, but he hasn't "called". If he called my name, I don't think I'd stop for galoshes.

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

I read this when it came out but it was more moving and powerful today. I stumbled on Jane Kenyon in the nineties and, by extension, looked into Donald Hall. I love her writing and like his. I love this piece of prose, however, and I will look back at Hall.

Stephen Cooper said...

Freeman Hunt - I believe that Gene Wolfe has some stories that track that particular emotion. He is a prose writer, poets general do not do horror - even the great poems of Poe are free of horror. Anyway, in the Wolfe stories I am thinking of, the protagonist is not sure if he has been dreaming or not, and the protagonist has a companion, and eventually the protagonist realizes the companion is not alive, despite the appearances, and this sort of makes the protagonist feel an existential fear. Wolfe is a Christian though, and not an atheist or agnostic, so there is an underlying hope in all his good stories.

the scariest good poetry line I can think of is TS Eliot - the "I will show you fear in a handful of dust" - and his Hollow Men poem is sort of like what you are talking about. But not exactly, of course. Maybe something in Browning, who had some awful lines from bad dreams, might match up with what you were describing? or, even worse, poor Baudelaire or Rimbaud ....

wildswan - we have had great art in this country for a long time, from all races. Emily Dickinson was the most intelligent Protestant poet ever, Bix Beiderbecke was the greatest improvisatory instrumentalist who has ever been recorded, and then there is Melville, who is at his best up there with Shakespeare. There is no reason why the arts in the USA might not be much better in the future, but they have already been quite good.

sodal ye said...

Best June thread. Thank you everyone.