| Stanley Kunitz
| Friday, May 26, 2006
|While I was on my trip, I rarely read any U.S. news. It was refreshing; besides, I didn't have time for it, because I had to keep up with the Paul and Heather separation that consumed the British papers.
I caught up on the news once I got back, and it was the usual: Iraq, Bush, immigration, and American Idol. However, one news item caught my attention--the passing away of poet Stanley Kunitz at age 100.
Kunitz's quiet, passionate poems are of the type out of vogue these days in the poetry world, practiced by only a handful of poets who know how to create several layers of depth and understanding in only one line. He didn't deal with smoke and mirrors; his poems were narrative accounts of the great subjects of literature: love, death, pain, purpose, etc.
Here is one of my favorite Kunitz poems.
Miss Murphy in first grade
wrote its name in chalk
across the board and told us
it was roaring down the stormtracks
of the Milky Way at frightful speed
and if it wandered off its course
and smashed into the earth
there'd be no school tomorrow.
A red-bearded preacher from the hills
with a wild look in his eyes
stood in the public square
at the playground's edge
proclaiming he was sent by God
to save every one of us,
even the little children.
"Repent, ye sinners!" he shouted,
waving his hand-lettered sign.
At supper I felt sad to think
that it was probably
the last meal I'd share
with my mother and my sisters;
but I felt excited too
and scarcely touched my plate.
So mother scolded me
and sent me early to my room.
The whole family's asleep
except for me. They never heard me steal
into the stairwell hall and climb
the ladder to the fresh night air.
Look for me, Father, on the roof
of the red brick building
at the foot of Green Street—
that's where we live, you know, on the top floor.
I'm the boy in the white flannel gown
sprawled on this coarse gravel bed
searching the starry sky,
waiting for the world to end.
Song of the Day
"If You Need a Reason" by Mason Jennings
(Thanks to I Guess I'm Floating for the link.)
|posted by pimplomat @ 1:48 PM
That is sad - I've always liked Stanley Kunitz, not just for his poetry, but the fact that he never stopped living. I saw an interview of him a couple years ago and he was still writing and giving readings and working in his garden. Very often the line "what makes the engine go? desire, desire, desire" will run through my head.