Two Mary Oliver quotes from my notebooks, on the day of her passing. It is sad because her vision of the natural world was extraordinary and powerful, and there will be no more poems from her, and in this spiritually caustic and destitute time we need our elder poets more than ever. They know what is holy and speak its truth.
To live in this world,
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go, to let it go.
“It was merely a moment.
The sun, angling out from the bunched clouds,
cast one could easily imagine tenderly
over the landscape its extraordinary light.”
I’ve just read, and herewith recommend, this interview by McSweeny’s of the poet Rebecca Lindenberg. Asked, “why write poetry?” she answers:
I think there is a general misconception that you write poems because you “have something to say.” I think, actually, that you write poems because you have something echoing around in the bone-dome of your skull that you cannot say. Poetry allows us to hold many related tangential notions in very close orbit around each other at the same time. The “unsayable” thing at the center of the poem becomes visible to the poet and reader in the same way that dark matter becomes visible to the astrophysicist. You can’t see it, but by measure of its effect on the visible, it can become so precise a silhouette you can almost know it.
We are arriving in that time of the year’s cycle when the trees turn towards their sleep and the animals slow and altogether too much is a metaphor of death. And the poet Galway Kinnell has died today, and that is not a metaphor at all.
Here is Charles Bukowski’s poem, So You Want to Be a Writer.
His advice: don’t do it. Well, that’s not quite true. He qualifies that almost completely. And he’s honest; I have admired his honesty. But to be honest myself, I haven’t admired much more than that about his poetry.
Was he a poet? Sure. A good one? OK, maybe. But I’ve almost always found in poetry a generosity of thought and spirit. Poetry explores Being and attempts to say the unsayable, name the unknown and unknowable. One might hope for occasional feints toward metaphysics.
Read some Bukowski poems and see if you find that in his work. I could be wrong – it’s been quite a while – but what I found named the human condition in terms all too well known, and in ways that I’d call existential but not particularly concerned with gaining altitude.
I just meant to share an interesting poem, and here I am speaking ill of the dead. Mea culpa. I imagine even Mozart had detractors. Bukowski published more than 40 books, which is …um … more than me. He must’ve been getting some wood on the ball. So ignore my rant and see what you think of the poem.
Yesterday’s poem from The Writer’s Almanac was No. 6 by Charles Bukowsky. His work is not what I think of when I think of delicacy or sensitivity of observation. But he shows some of that in this piece.
Maybe I’ve misjudged him, based on the only book I’ve read cover to cover, Love Is A Dog From Hell. It troubled and disturbed, as I recall; I wanted somebody to drag his ass to an AA meeting, then maybe to Disneyland. The man needed an attitude adjustment, was my opinion.
What do I know? Anyway, here’s No. 6 by Charles Bukowski.