Friday, January 16, 2009

keeping the ice from forming

Jonathan Williams, alluding to Orpheus's power to entrance nature with the beauty of his singing and lyre playing, once wrote of the poet's job that "if it is possible to move rocks and trees, it is just possible to keep the ice from forming in other human hearts".
Of all the myriad definitions of poetry I know, this is the one that strikes a deeper chord with my experience as reader. And, of all the myriad poems I love, Robert Creeley's "Myself" is the one which more fully embodies that Orphic power.

Myself (click to listen to Creeley's reading)

What, younger, felt
was possible, now knows
is not—but still
not changed enough—

Walked by the sea,
unchanged in memory—
evening, as clouds
on the far-off rim

of water float,
pictures of time,
smoke, faintness—
still the dream.

I want, if older,
still to know
why, human, men
and women are

so torn, so lost,
why hopes cannot
find better world
than this.

Shelley is dead and gone,
who said,
"Taught them not this—
to know themselves;

their might could not repress
the mutiny within,
And for the morn
of truth they feigned,

deep night
Caught them ere evening . . ."

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