Thursday, June 23, 2011

Two Poets

I've been reading poetry all my life. When I was a kid, when I wasn't collecting baseball cards or listening to the Phillies on my transistor radio tucked under my pillow, I was copying out Poe and Frost and Longfellow in a little spiral notebook. I made my own anthology of favorite poems that way.

I don't read nearly as much poetry nowadays, and have become rather a tyrannical reader. I'm very impatient and don't think much of most of the poetry I encounter in lit journals (so I don't read then any more). I still love Frost (above all others) and his younger "followers" Richard Wilbur and Robert Francis. Of contemporary poets I love the work of Mary Oliver most of all, and it's her kind of poetry I sometimes try to emulate.

In the mid-20th century there was a poet named James Wright, whose work appeared in a lot of anthologies (and I suppose still does). I love three or four of his poems, and that's a pretty good record. Perhaps his most often anthologized poem is "A Blessing."
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.
That's lovely, isn't it? It's observant of both the outer and the inner realities, and careful of both.

So anyway, today I discovered a blog called Kingdom Poets, which features "poets of the Christian faith." That's where I found this remarkable poem by James Wright's son, Franz Wright. Together these two are the only father and son combination to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Here is "Cloudless Snowfall."
Great big flakes like white ashes
at nightfall descending
abruptly everywhere
and vanishing
in this hand like the host
on somebody's put-out tongue, she
turns the crucifix over
to me, still warm
from her touch two years later
and thank you,
I say all alone—
Vast whisp-whisp of wingbeats
awakens me and I look up
at a minute-long string of black geese
following low past the moon the white
course of the snow-covered river and
by the way thank You for
keeping Your face hidden, I
can hardly bear the beauty of this world.
This is fine stuff. Thanks to D. S. Martin at Kingdom Poets for making my day.


Glynn said...

You just introduced me to a cool blog. Thanks, Bob. (And I love this post.)

Bob Spencer said...

glad to be of service, Glenn.