Tuesday, September 30, 2008

RIP Hayden Carruth (1921-2008)

Hayden Carruth


for Denise
A dark day in June. Looking across the valley
at our mosaic, the meadows, woodlots, and plowed fields
on the opposing hills, I see as through a glass

darkly, or rather as through a window
somewhere inside, semi-translucent, into
a familiarity become almost unknown with the years,

Like the sun, so often unseen in this part of the world,
a presence learned long but nearly always hidden.
It moves across the zenith. A strange noontime.

Somewhere over there are the tiny figures
of those I knew. They move, scarcely visible,
in their rounds of chores and pleasures, like people

in an ancient painting. The air shifts and darkens,
and a plume of rain falls like the lazy drift
of a window-curtain, muslin, in a whiff of wind,

and in a few seconds is gone—vanished. Hardly
enough to dampen the air. It is as if an intimation
had been given and then almost instantly withdrawn.

[originally published in Verse]

Although Hayden Carruth only contributed one poem to Verse, his work and example have been hugely important to me since I started writing, thanks in part to happening upon his Collected Shorter Poems as a fledgling poet. The incredible range--formal, stylistic, thematic--of his poems astonishes me every time I read his work. Carruth was a great poet of love, "neighborliness," music (especially jazz and the blues), old age, poverty, labor, protest, the natural world, and more. He had a very difficult life, and he endured. His anthology, The Voice That Is Great Within Us, deservedly remains in print. His criticism is a wonderful example of honest engagement with the work. He will be missed.

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