Monday, December 27, 2010

Birth Year Reading Challenge: Selected Poems - Stanley Kunitz

Sigh. I hate to say I was disappointed in a book of poems, but there it is. Perhaps I am just too stupid or lazy to appreciate what Kunitz offers. A lot of the time I couldn't even tell what he was talking about.

Having written that, I feel guilty and inadequate. One of the blessings, for me, in reading prize-winners is the encouragement to persist, knowing that others have found merit in the work and perhaps I can, too. And so, I soldier on.

After a second sampling (randomly, just now), perhaps I have been too hasty. I suspect I rushed through my first reading, and paid the price in lack of understanding. These are poems to be read carefully, in small doses, perhaps one per day, and pondered.

Kunitz conveys a sense of mystery, often constructed with careful observations from the natural world. His rhymes are delicately applied, coherent without being obvious. Each poem is a kind of riddle, to be decoded with time, not grasped on first impression.

So don't be discouraged, as I nearly was. Keep trying, if you care to. I certainly will.


Last Words

Listen: from sleep's long pillow I arise
To go away. One moment let me lean
On falling air before I lock my eyes.
Are the leaves red now? No matter. Trees are green.

The colors of the world are permanent
Despite the bleach of change. Pure stain on stain,
The bow of light's eternal forms is bent
Across steep heaven in the general brain.

Who cries, The beautiful, the proud, are fallen!
(Oh silly child, it was myself that cried.)
Death, eater of the heads of flowers, spills pollen:
Our little strength, our beauty, and our pride.

Are for the race to keep; we can discover
Secrets with our broken skills; our dead feet run
Under the lid of earth that closes over
The generations marching to the sun.

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