Hayden Carruth’s Poem “California”

scrambled-eggs-whiskey

I discovered American poet Hayden Carruth on subrosa here. The poem Sigrun posted was so poignant that I ordered one of Carruth’s collections Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey. I haven’t finished the collection yet and I can’t say that every poem speaks to me but some are stunning.

California is a poem he dedicated to Adrienne Rich. I particularly liked the third stanza. The poem was probably written in the 90s but what he expresses is just as valid today. Maybe even more so.

CALIFORNIA by Hayden Carruth

for Adrienne Rich

To come again into the place of revolutionary
thought after years in the wilderness
of complacency and hard-eyed greed
and brutality
is extraordinary. A’s kitchen
in Santa Cruz
isn’t greatly different from her kitchen in
West Barnet in the old days,
small interesting ornaments here and there,
many good things to eat
and how ideas flew from stove to table,
from corner to corner. In Santa Cruz
after twenty-odd years it was the same. Tolstoi said
the purpose of poetry is to provoke
feeling in the reader, to “infect” the reader,
he said,and so to induce a change,
a change of conscience
that may lead to a change in the world, that will
lead to a change in the world!
How can poetry be written by people who want no change?

To be reconciled after so long,
in sunshine, among Latino voices. A. showed me
where earthquake two years ago had changed Santa Cruz
and how the people were rebuilding, making it better. Had she
been frightened? Of course. Would she move away?
Never. Here earth itself gives us the paradigm.
And the great ocean hurling its might always thunderously against
the land at Half Moon Bay is our measure
of flux and courage
and eternity.

We drove among hills, redwood and eucalyptus,
dense growth, the richness and ramifying intricacy
of the world’s loveliness, and asked
what would be left
for our grandchildren, already born, when they are
as old as we? No longer do we
need an insane president to end us
by pushing a button. People
need only go on living as they are, without change,
the complacent and hard-eyed
everywhere. At the airport
after dark
among hard lights
with the massive proportions of human energy
surrounding them, two old people
embraced in love of the injured and poor, of poetry,
of the world in its still remaining remote possibilities,
which were themselves.

Linda Pastan’s The Happiest Day

Heroes in Disguise

I don’t read a lot of poetry. Maybe one or two books a year, often less. Last year, I discovered the poems of Linda Pastan. One of my favourites is The Happiest Day.

It’s from her collection Heroes in Disguise.

The Happiest Day

It was early May, I think
a moment of lilac or dogwood
when so many promises are made
it hardly matters if a few are broken.
My mother and father still hovered
in the background, part of the scenery
like the houses I had grown up in,
and if they would be torn down later
that was something I knew
but didn’t believe. Our children were asleep
or playing, the youngest as new
as the new smell of the lilacs,
and how could I have guessed
their roots were shallow
and would be easily transplanted.
I didn’t even guess that I was happy.
The small irritations that are like salt
on melon were what I dwelt on,
though in truth they simply
made the fruit taste sweeter.
So we sat on the porch
in the cool morning, sipping
hot coffee. Behind the news of the day–
strikes and small wars, a fire somewhere–
I could see the top of your dark head
and thought not of public conflagrations
but of how it would feel on my bare shoulder.
If someone could stop the camera then…
if someone could only stop the camera
and ask me: are you happy?
perhaps I would have noticed
how the morning shone in the reflected
color of lilac. Yes, I might have said
and offered a steaming cup of coffee.

On Sarah Kirsch’s Regenkatze – Raincat (2007)

Regenkatze

Sarah Kirsch, born Ingrid Bernstein, in 1935, in Prussian Saxony was a German poet and artist. She was widely known and appreciated in Germany and received numerous prestigious prices. Quite a lot of her books, like the poetry collection Catlives, have also been translated into English. Sarah Kirsch died in May this year. Taking the name Sarah was a deliberate choice to annoy her father who was an anti-Semite.

At first I wanted to join Danielle in her Christa Wolf project. She’s reading One Day a Year, Christa Wolf’s diary, for GLM. While looking for the book on my shelves, I came across Sarah Kirsch’s Regenkatze (Raincat), a diary of the years 2003/2004 and started reading it right away. Such a lovely book. But imagine how surprised I was when I found two diary entries dedicated to Christa Wolf’s One Day a Year, which came out in 2003. Obviously they knew each other as they were writers in the former Democratic Republic of Germany, a secluded space, in which everyone was monitored and spied on. According to those diary entries, Wolf wrote about Sarah Kirsch in her diary. Kirsch doesn’t say too much but she’s not keen on Wolf’s book and abandons it after a while saying that she distorted the truth.

Regenkatze is a wonderful book. It has been written by a woman who loved life and enjoyed every moment of it. But she could also be very critical and ironic. She hated anything fake and phony and loved nothing better than reading, writing, cats and nature.

Kirsch lived in the country, in a house on her own and occasionally with her son. Her days are quiet and filled with observations of the weather, the trees and plants, her cats. Highlights are book deliveries and plunging into the work of new authors. In 2003 she goes through a Murakami phase and re-reads Proust’s books. But she also enjoys Harry Potter, watches crime on TV and snuggles up with the cat.

I hadn’t read any of her poems before but the way she wrote this diary told me I should. She wrote Regenkatze in a very peculiar way, inventing new words, writing in metaphor’s, breaking up the structure of sentences, adding dialect and spoken language.

It’s a very engaging book. Her enthusiasm and joy is infectious and I will certainly read more of her.

I leave you with two of her poems from Catlives:

The Housing

It is dark in the house water curtains

Flow in front of the windows until Epiphany

We put up with the Christmas tree

Flames flicker on candle stubs

Wind presses the linenfold water

Close to the panes bulbous plants

Flower white blue and pink

Darkness tumbles from corners

Steels over sills creeps into

Itself and under the beds

Silence wells up from cupboards and coffers

And in the warm and tangible gloom

Through which I pass as it closes behind me

That hangs about like violet velvet

Rolls itself up and swells and sits in each pot

The one I love suddenly treats the piano

To pieces that move me to tears

The cat treads on her favourite chair

The drainpipes leak at the

Predetermined spots the carpenter’s

Drunken soul is clattering in the rafters

Snow

How before our practices eyes

Everything changes the village flies

Centuries back in the snow

All we need are a couple of crows

Pollard willows along the way oldfashioned dogs

Love and faithfulness count you pull me

Over ditches carry my stole little

Bundle of wood into the evening

Living smoke  wraps up roofs.

Carol Ann Duffy: Rapture (2005) Poems

Rapture

Carol Ann Duffy’s seventh collection is a book-length love poem, and a moving act of personal testimony; but what sets these poems apart is Duffy’s refusal to simplify the contradictions and transformations of love – infatuation, longing, passion, commitment, rancour, separation and grief. Instead, Rapture is a map of real love, in all its churning complexity, showing us that a song can be made of even the most painful episodes in our lives. These are poems that will find deep rhymes in the experience of most readers and will, ultimately, prove that poetry can and should speak for us all.

I like poetry and try to read a poem here and there as often as possible but it’s relatively rare that I read a whole collection in one go.  British poet Carol Ann Duffy’s collection Rapture was an exception that’s why I decided to write about it.

I often hear people say they would love to read poetry but feel they need special guidance, an instruction, an interpretation to be able to make the most of a poem. While I certainly like some of the poets which are not so accessible, I thought it was a pleasure to find someone like Carol Ann Duffy who is so readable and whose poems almost read like short stories. Reading her would be a perfect starting point for someone less familiar with reading poetry.

Rapture is meant to be read from beginning to end as it does, to some extent, tell a love story, beginning with the early enchanted moments of falling in love and ending with the break-up and loss of the loved person.

What appealed to me in Duffy’s poems is the combination of strong imagery and ideas. The words she chooses create pictures in the mind, are very sensual but at the same time they lead to intellectual discoveries. Another element which seems typical for her and makes her so accessible, is the combination of the mundane with lyrical descriptions of nature. Love in these poems is rooted in daily life but also experienced as pure beauty and enchantment. Duffy writes a lot of almost magical poems describing exalted states but she doesn’t shy away from writing about the sudden importance of text messages.

I haven’t read any others of her collections so far but it seems every book has a theme which runs through it. The themes are different from one book to the next, but images return and weave a world of their own.

The collection I bought, is the Picador collection which you can see above. The cover is very pretty, it’s not as red as on the photo. The picture of the branch of a fig tree, with leaves and fruits, is embossed on it.

I find it very hard to review a poetry collection and think it might be better to let the poems speak for themselves. Here are three of my favourite poems of this collection:

Name

When did your name
change from a proper noun
to a charm?

Its three vowels
like jewels
on the thread of my breath.

Its consonants
brushing my mouth
like a kiss.

I love your name.
I say it again and again
in this summer rain.

I see it,
discreet in the alphabet,
like a wish.

I pray it
into the night
till its letters are light.

I hear your name
rhyming, rhyming,
rhyming with everything.

River

Down by the river, under the trees, love waits for me
to walk from the journeying years of my time and arrive.
I part the leaves and they toss me a blessing of rain.

The river stirs and turns consoling and fondling itself
with watery hands, its clear limbs parting and closing.
Grey as a secret, the heron bows its head on the bank.

I drop my past on the grass and open my arms, which ache
as though they held up this heavy sky, or had pressed
against window glass all night as my eyes sieved the stars;

open my mouth, wordless at last meeting love at last, dry
from travelling so long, shy of a prayer. You step from the shade,
and I feel love come to my arms and cover my mouth, feel

my soul swoop and ease itself into my skin, like a bird
threading a river. Then I can look love full in the face, see
who you are I have come this far to find, the love of my life.

Tea

I like pouring your tea, lifting
the heavy pot, and tipping it up,
so the fragrant liquid streams in your china cup.

Or when you’re away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I like the questions – sugar? – milk? –
and the answers I don’t know by heart, yet,
for I see your soul in your eyes, and I forget.

Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon,
I love tea’s names. Which tea would you like? I say
but it’s any tea for you, please, any time of day,

as the women harvest the slopes
for the sweetest leaves, on Mount Wu-Yi,
and I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea.

While browsing the internet to do a bit of research on this collection I found an interesting article by Jeanette Winterson from 2005 in which she deplores that Carol Ann Duffy is not poet laureate. I’m sure Jeanette Winterson is pleased that this has changed. Carol Ann Duffy holds the title since 2009.

Do you have a favourite poem or poet?

Giveaway Winner – The Day the World Ends – A Collection of Poems by Ethan Coen

As promised, I’ve drawn the winner of the poetry collection The Day the World Ends courtesy of Crown Publishing.

random org. list generator has decided. The winner is

Guy Savage (His Futile Preoccupations)

Congratulations, Guy.

Pease send me your address via beautyisasleepingcat@gmail.com

Poetry Month Book Giveaway – The Day the World Ends – A Collection of Poems by Ethan Coen

April is poetry month and that seems to be an excellent reason to give away a book of poetry. I wasn’t even aware of the fact that the younger of the two Coen brothers wrote poems before Crown Publishing offered me the opportunity to give away his newly released book The Day the World Ends.

Here is what the blurb says

Coen’s eccentric genius is revealed again in THE DAY THE WORLD ENDS (Broadway Paperbacks Original, on sale April 3, 2012), a collection of poems that offers humor and provides insight into an artist who has always pushed the boundaries of his craft. THE DAY THE WORLD ENDS  is a remarkable range of poems that are as funny, ribald, provocative, raw, and often touching as the brilliant films that have made the Coen brothers cult legends.

I haven’t read any of his poems but I like the movies of the Coen brothers a lot. The Big Lebowski is one of my favourite comedies. It seems that some of the poems in his older collection were quite controversial.

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If you would you like to win the book, please leave a comment. The giveaway is open internationally. The winner will be announced on Sunday 15 April 2012.