Thursday, September 21, 2006

This Week's Poem & Poet

I've been reading Stanley Kunitz's 1994 book, PASSING THROUGH, Later Poems, New and Selected. In the middle of the book is a poem that's been a favorite for some time, "The Layers". The title already appeals to someone who maks quilts, for we define our work as being three layers ... so meditation about layers as a metaphor for our lives is a natrual process as we work. I don't know the copyright laws so I won't quote the whole poem, here's the final lines:
In my darkest night
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus clouded voice
directed me
"Live in the layers
not the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chaper
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

The poem is wonderful, you can Google Stanley Kunitz. At American Academy of Poets you can get a nice picture, a bio and hear him reading. At Poem Hunter, you can read this and any other poem of his -- it's a fantastic site. Let's pause for a picture of some layers at sunset which is appropriate for many reasons.

Kunitz was Poet Laureat in 2000 -- he was 94. He died last May at age 100. He wrote this poem in his late 70s I believe.
I found a wonderful prose poem in the book, it's one of several pieces he wrote when the Whitney Museum had an exhibit of needlework; a book was made of the exhibit called, A BLESSING OF WOMEN. I quote this one for reasons that will be obvious although I like others in ghe group even more.

BLESS MRS. AUSTIN EARNEST of Paris, Illinois, whose husband, a local politician of no other fame, organized in 1853 a rally for the Presidential candidate of the new Republican party, following which she gathered the material used to decorate the stand wherefrom the immortal Lincoln spoke and, with scissors and needle and reverential heart, transformed it into a quilted patchwork treasure.

To friends and readers of this blog who think poetry is difficult and full of high flown language, I hope you'll see from these short quotes from Kunitz and from last Thursday's quote from Mary Oliver, that poems are often very wonderful and not the least big scary. Don't get hung up in the litter of literature teachers who made you think poetry is only for literary types; poetry is very everyone ... and I don't mean Hallmark card poetry, I mean those skinny books with lots of white space on the pages. I mean poems being written people who are living and writing today.

No comments :