In the American Heritage dictionary close-up is
defined as: 1. A photograph or a film or television shot
in which the subject is tightly framed and shown at a
relatively large scale. 2. An intimate view or description.
poetry section is edited by Suzanne Lummis.
Suzanne, Thank you for your
introduction to Poetix. It is very refreshing to have
someone like you bring in morsels of fine poetry to a person
who does not take enough time to really appreciate the art
and its creators. I would like to visit this site every
time you have a new issue. Your critique provides the
craddling arms around the work while avoiding didactic
interpretation--A true curator's craft. I believe that
without people like you, poets like R. Seiferle and Barnes
may dissipate into quirky obscurity. Prof. Barnes was my
mentor at Pomona College. How reassuring to see that his
spirit lives beyond his own personal sphere of people like
myself. Now, I am going to go sniff some creosote and run
off with the desert coati and kestrals. Won Kim
"Sometimes we must resist rather than merely
reflect our times."
Who wrote this? If anyone out there
remembers please e-mail me the name of its author because
I've plum forgotten.
For December 2002 I've chosen visitor Richard
Howard and resident David St. John, both poets whose
language seems at once to reflect and resist contemporary
fashions in writing. The following contain flourishes of
the colloquial, and the off-hand, unstudied remark, yet in
each case the tone recalls pleasantly for me that era
when men of property did not sit down to dinner without a
A few elements of Richard Howard's poem intrigue me, and
one involves the title. What if this little piece
approaching the subject of death in its wending (and, oh all
right, winding) way, sly at times with its parenthetical
asides, were called "Elementary Principles at 24" instead of
Principles at Seventy-Two." I think I'd like it less,
not because a 24 year old can't write compellingly about
death God knows how many 24-year-olds around the world
have witnessed and endured multiple deaths but because I
might mistrust that rather mannered voice. 'Oh,' I'd
think, 'some grad student's aiming for The New Criterion.
But in knowing the poet is 72 this particular manner and
style play out quite differently in my understanding. It's
as if the poet devises means to steer around and past
self-dramatization or obvious pathos, and as a result the
quiet closing down of the poem at the end, that final
descent upon the one last possible consolation, seems all
the more stirring and poignant.
A student brought the following David St.
John poem to my attention once again when he recited it in
class last week. This inspired a discussion on how the
narrative poem does not necessarily always serve as a vessel
for more-or-less literal news of one's present life and
store of memories. Poetry maybe even above the other
literary arts can enable the writer to create for himself
(herself) some other identity, some other life, perhaps a
parallel life far more revealing of the poet's interior
world than any detailed account of day-to-day routines.
I doubt the fragment of a tale revealed in "A
Hard and Noble Patience" obeys the literal truth. However,
the poem convinces me that a woman should have come into
being who would, at the appropriate time, resolve to
disappear into that Swiss lake frequented by neighboring
gods. And the poet ought to have been present when her body
was drawn from the water. And her iced lashes should have
quivered under his breath exactly as he describes. If all
this didn't happen accordingly then this constitutes a
blunder on the part of Providence which makes, oh, so many
mistakes! And here the poet goes as far as a poet can to
set things right.
Note: Richard Howard reads at The Hammer Museum series,
8 p.m., Wednesday, December 4, and in the gallery at Otis
Art School, 7 p.m., Friday, December 6.
Elementary Principles at Seventy-Two
When we consider the stars
(what else can we do with them?) and even
recognize among them sidereal
father-figures (it was our
consideration that arranged them so),
they will always outshine us, for we change.
When we behold the water
(which cannot be held, for it keeps turning
into itself), that is how we would move
but water overruns us.
And when we aspire to be clad in fire
(for who would not put on such apparel?)
the flames only pass us by
it is a way they have of passing through.
But earth is another matter. Ask earth
to take us, the last mother
one womb we may reassume. Yes indeed,
we can have the earth. Earth will have us.
Howard's "Talking Cures" was published by Turtle Point
Press this year. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for
"Untitled Subjects. He is poetry editor of The Paris
Review and a noted translator.
A Hard and Noble Patience
There is a
hard & noble patience
I admire in
my friends who are dead
admit there are none of them
change places with
For one thing
look how poorly they dress
Only one is
& that is
She chose to
drown herself in a Swiss lake
Fed by a
glacier said in local myth
To be a pool
of the gods
& when her
body was found she was so
the icy currents
That even her
eyelashes seemed to quiver
was only for an instant
was strapped to a canvas stretcher
& loaded into
a blue van
Soon I was
the only person still standing
At the lake's
edge A man made lonely
A man with
less than perfect faith in any god
poem above appears in the Houghton Mifflin book "No Heaven,"
1985. David St. John's new book of poetry, "Prism," springs
from a collaboration with the visual artist Lance
Patigian. Robert Haas, in the Los Angeles Times Book
Review, praised St. John's sentences as "
full, almost past
ripeness, of a floating, sometimes painful, sometimes
wistful, intense, dark and silvery eroticism
" He teaches