Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Three Poems By Hayden Carruth

Little Citizen, Little Survivor

A brown rat has taken up residence with me.
A little brown rat with pinkish ears and lovely
almond-shaped eyes. He and his wife live
in the woodpile by my back door, and they are
so equal I cannot tell which is which when they
poke their noses out of the crevices among
the sticks of firewood and then venture farther
in search of sunflower seeds spilled from the feeder.
I can't tell you, my friend, how glad I am to see them.
I haven't seen a fox for years, or a mink, or
a fisher cat, or an eagle, or a porcupine, I haven't
seen any of my old company of the woods
and the fields, we who used to live in such
close affection and admiration. Well, I remember
when the coons would tap on my window, when
the ravens would speak to me from the edge of their
little precipice. Where are they now? Everyone knows.
Gone. Scattered in this terrible dispersal. But at least
the brown rat that most people so revile and fear
and castigate has brought his wife to live with me
again. Welcome, little citizen, little survivor.
Lend me your presence, and I will lend you mine.

from Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey, Copper Canyon Press, 1996


Sometimes we don’t say anything. Sometimes
we sit on the deck and stare at the masses of
goldenrod where the garden used to be
and watch the color change form day to day,
the high yellow turning to mustard and at last
to tarnish. Starlings flitter in the branches
of the dead hornbeam by the fence. And are these
therefore the procedures of defeat? Why am I
saying all this to you anyway since you already
know it? But of course we always tell
each other what we already know. What else?
It’s the way love is in a late stage of the world.

from Collected Shorter Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 1992

The Minute Difference Between Birds And Leaves

She lay unmoving a moment longer, silver thighs
Still splayed, breasts tilted apart so that the bones
Of her chest showed like interlocked fingers while she looked outward
To moonlight and gleaming, billowing trees,
And then she turned on her side and said —
But he did not hear
The words flutter down on him, touching, tickling
With little brittle feet, pecking the meal
Of his arms and belly, the golden grain; he heard rather
The unspoken that is always eloquent, her few pleas,
Echoes very distant behind the lanterns of his eyes.
He rose then, scattering words, and went to the window shivering.
Cold boards fed the hunger in his feet. He looked at the trees
In silver frost, leaves falling, severing themselves and falling,
Their silence falling in moonlight, falling all night without wind,
Mouths falling
searching the whole body of earth with their kisses.

from A Green Mountain Idyll - Poems For Hayden Carruth, Longhouse Publishers& Booksellers, 2002

Editor: Eileen Moeller

It is impossible to represent Hayden Carruth's enormous body of work here, but I've chosen three poems that seem to capture his generous spirit, and his gift for magnifying, and making sense of, the ordinary moment.

Born in Connecticut, Hayden died in New York State on October 2, 2008, having dedicated most of his eighty-seven years to poetry. He was my teacher at Syracuse University, and my most beloved "poetry father". He was a master of poetics, who regularly received and edited manuscripts sent by his many literary friends, including seasoned poets like Galway Kinnell and Adrienne Rich.

I thought of him as heroic in his dedication to poetry, in his sensitivity, in his constant push against meaninglessness, and in his honesty about the demons that plagued him. His poems speak in the voice(s) of the American Northeast. They evoke a love of the local, of nature, of ordinary people, of the intimacy of everyday human interaction; they convey an open-heartedness and a lust for experience that makes me want to live more deeply.

I can hear his deep voice in all of the poems here, his lilting New England accent. I love the conversational tone of these, the way it offsets their exquisite imagery, the tension between the natural and the craft.

Permission pending for use of the three poems, more on Hayden here, and a list of his poetry publications:
  • The Crow and the Heart, 1946-1959, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1959.
  • In Memoriam: G. V. C., privately printed, 1960.
  • Journey to a Known Place (long poem), New Directions (New York, NY), 1961.
  • The Norfolk Poems: 1 June to 1 September 1961, Prairie Press (Iowa City, IA), 1962.
  • North Winter, Prairie Press (Iowa City, IA), 1964.
  • Nothing for Tigers; Poems, 1959-1964, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1965.
  • Contra Mortem (long poem), Crow's Mark Press (Johnson, VT), 1967.
  • (Contributor) Where Is Vietnam?: American Poets Respond, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 1967.
  • For You: Poems, New Directions (New York, NY), 1970.
  • The Clay Hill Anthology, Prairie Press, 1970.
  • From Snow and Rock, from Chaos: Poems, 1965-1972, New Directions (New York, NY), 1973.
  • Dark World, Kayak (Santa Cruz, CA), 1974.
  • The Bloomingdale Papers, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1975.
  • Loneliness: An Outburst of Hexasyllables, Janus Press (Rogue River, OR), 1976.
  • Aura, Janus Press (Rogue River, OR), 1977.
  • Brothers, I Loved You All, Sheep Meadow (New York, NY), 1978.
  • Almanach du Printemps Vivarois, Nadja, 1979.
  • The Mythology of Dark and Light, Tamarack (Madison, WI), 1982.
  • The Sleeping Beauty, Harper (New York, NY), 1983, revised edition, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1990.
  • If You Call This Cry a Song, Countryman Press (Woodstock, VT), 1983.
  • Asphalt Georgics, New Directions (New York, NY), 1985.
  • Lighter than Air Craft, edited by John Wheatcroft, Press Alley, 1985.
  • The Oldest Killed Lake in North America, Salt-Works Press, 1985.
  • Mother, Tamarack Press, 1985.
  • The Selected Poetry of Hayden Carruth, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1986.
  • Sonnets, Press Alley, 1989.
  • Tell Me Again How the White Heron Rises and Flies across the Nacreous River at Twilight toward the Distant Islands, New Directions (New York, NY), 1989.
  • Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1992.
  • Collected Longer Poems, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1993.
  • Selected Essays and Reviews, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1995.
  • Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey: Poems, 1991-1995, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 1996.
  • Doctor Jazz: Poems, 1996-2000, Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, WA), 2001.

This week's editor is US poet, Eileen Moeller, who lives in Philadelphia. Visit her Tuesday Poem on her blog and go to the sidebar for a host of other Tuesday Poems posted today.


Kathleen Jones said...

Eileen - these are absolutely magical. I love the way you can hear his voice as you read them on the page. This contemporary American style of poetry - quiet narrative that almost sounds like prose but absolutely isn't - is very attractive to me.

Jennifer Compton said...

wonderful - thanking you

Mary McCallum said...

'Lend me your presence and I will lend you mine.' Fantastic. This poet makes you pause and rethink. Thanks so much Eileen for these.

Mary McCallum said...

Comment on Beatties Bookblog re. Tuesday Poem this week (made by Madeleine Marie Slavick): Good to see these three sane, soft and strong Hayden Carruth poems from USA on a day like today where violence is condoned.

I think of Martin Luther King, Jr: "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate..."

susan t. landry said...

i have heard this poet's name for forever, it seems, but never taken a close look. Now, i will; thank you so much for this tiny peek through the keyhole at what i anticipate as a vast treasure trove.

Ben Hur said...

Yes, I love the way he makes the minutiae of life seem grand and beautiful.

I echo Madeleine Marie Slavick's comment too via Mary's comment. I don't think most people dispute that Osama Bin Laden was a terrorist and a killer of innocents, but in order for the West to show and have honour, we must not descend to eye for eye. He needed to be brought before a forum where open and fair justice could be done.

Helen Lowe said...

Wonderful poems; thank you for bringing them to us, Eileen.