Poetry Review: “Another” by Hayden Carruth

Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey

I have said here before (on a number of occasions) that I am a comber of bookshelves. Walking the shore of thrift stores I love to look for interesting “shells” to take home. A couple of weeks ago, I came upon this gem, Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey by Hayden Carruth.

There are no accidents in life. I have been trying to spend more time with some poets that I have neglected over the years, and one of those is Carruth.

Poetry moves on a pendulum of influence, between nature and the political (Poetry of Beauty/Poetry of Justice). A few great poets like Yeats can inhabit and influence both dialectical poles, moving from pole to pole one poem at a time. Most poets are most comfortable, most at home, toward one end of the long pendulum swing or the other.

A prolific poet and writer (some 30 books), Carruth seemed most comfortable on the political side of poetical influence. The poem “Another” (written toward the end of his life) is a fine example of this.

Enjoy!

 

Another
by Hayden Carruth

Let me say this finally
in another little
song.  Truth and beauty
were never the
aims of proper poetry
and an era
which proclaimed them
was a brutal
era.  Justice was what
Homer sought
and Dante and Villon.
We cannot
force it on these regressive
Slavs or these
Indonesian murderers
but in what is
ours, here let
justice be primary
when we sing,
my dear.

 

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

Truth and beauty
were never the
aims of proper poetry
and an era
which proclaimed them
was a brutal
era.  Justice was what
Homer sought
and Dante and Villon.

 

The student of poetry will notice the reference to Keats (“Truth and beauty”). Keats, more than almost any poet, any great poet, shows us that Poetry of Beauty cannot be dismissed, no matter what the rest of the poem says, or seems to say.

Poetry of Beauty and Poetry of Justice are not binaries but rather dialectical siblings. And poets and poems move between the two as the Book of Psalms moves between Psalms of Praise for Nature and  God and Psalms of Lament. Justice after all is a longing for Truth in this world. And Truth is, after all, almost always beautiful.

 

“Pitching & Politics” A Poem

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 22: Miguel Sano #22 of the Minnesota Twins and James McCann #34 of the Detroit Tigers clash with home plate umpire Jordan Baker attempting to break up the altercation after Sano pointed at Matthew Boyd #48 of the Detroit Tigers in the fifth inning on April 22, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sano and Boyd were ejected from the game. (Photo by Andy King/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – APRIL 22: Miguel Sano #22 of the Minnesota Twins and James McCann #34 of the Detroit Tigers clash with home plate umpire Jordan Baker attempting to break up the altercation after Sano pointed at Matthew Boyd #48 of the Detroit Tigers in the fifth inning on April 22, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sano and Boyd were ejected from the game. (Photo by Andy King/Getty Images)

 

The purpose of poetry (if “purpose” it has) is to connect us to the sacred. Growing as it does out of magical and shamanistic language it has never lost that element of its origin.

Its other “purpose” is political.

Here is a political baseball poem.

Enjoy!

PITCHING & POLITICS
by m.a.h. Hinton

in Baseball
a pitch 
thrown too far inside
is an invitation
to a fight

thrown just right
it is a merely
a reminder
to stop crowding
the plate

inches matter
as does intent

it is the same
in Truth

a lie
thrown out
to deceive the masses
is an invitation
to a fight

thrown in ignorance
it is a reminder
to start paying attention

 

The Road to Assisi

IMG_0065

“Croagh Patrick, May 2016” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

 

As I have mentioned here before, to try and help me deal with the madness that is Trump, I have been trying to slow things down, pay attention to baseball again, and read about St. Francis.

Here are some quotes about St. Francis and the nature of religion from The Road to Assisi, by Paul Sabatier.

On the Reformation:“The Reformation only substituted the authority of the book for that of the priest; it is a change of dynasty and nothing more. As to the majority of those who to-day call themselves free-thinkers, they confuse religious freedom with irreligion….”

On True Love: “It is far indeed from hatred of evil to love of good. Those are more numerous than we think who, after severe experience, have renounced what the ancient liturgies call the world, with its pomps and lusts; but the greater number of them have not at the bottom of their hearts the smallest grain of pure love. In vulgar souls disillusion leaves only a frightful egoism.”

On Denominational Differences: “In certain counties of England there are at the present day villages having as many as eight and ten places of worship for a few hundreds of inhabitants. Many of these people change their denomination every three or four years, returning to that they first quitted, leaving it again only to enter it anew, and so on as long as they live. Their leaders set the example, throwing themselves enthusiastically into each new movement only to leave it before long. They would all alike find it difficult to give an intelligible reason for these changes. They say that the Spirit guides them, and it would be unfair to disbelieve them, but the historian who should investigate conditions like these would lose his head in the labyrinth unless he made a separate study of each of these Protean movements. They are surely not worth the trouble.”

On the Modern Source of Heresies: “Still, a few general characteristics may be observed; in the first place, heresies are no longer metaphysical subtleties as in earlier days; Arius and Priscillian, Nestorius and Eutychus are dead indeed. In the second place, they no longer arise in the upper and governing class, but proceed especially from the inferior clergy and the common people.”

On Dogmatizing: “St. Francis never consented to occupy himself with questions of doctrine. For him faith was not of the intellectual but the moral domain; it is the consecration of the heart. Time spent in dogmatizing appeared to him time lost.”

On Fighting Evil: “The only weapon which he would use against the wicked was the holiness of a life so full of love as to enlighten and revive those about him, and compel them to love.”

On Living in Interesting Times: “The ages of great terror are also the ages of great hope; it is to the captivity of Babylon that we owe, with the second part of Isaiah, those pictures of the future which have not yet ceased to charm the soul of man; Nero’s persecutions gave us the Apocalypse of St. John, and the paroxysms of the twelfth century the eternal Gospel.”

Poetry Review: Written in Very Early Youth, by William Wordsworth

"Late Summer" (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

“Late Summer” (photo by m.a.h. hinton)

In addition to reading about baseball and St. Francis, I have been re-reading Wordsworth of late. As is true with all great poets, Wordsworth gets better on each re-read. That in the end is what distinguishes a great poem (and a great poet) from a merely good one, inexhaustible depth.

This is one of Wordsworth’s earliest poems. Even though it is early in his career, it contains much that we would consider to be lyrical and “Wordsworthian”: nature, emotion, and the individual.

Enjoy!

Written in Very Early Youth
by William Wordsworth

Calm is all nature as a resting wheel.
The kine are couched upon the dewy grass;
The horse alone, seen dimly as I pass,
Is cropping audibly his later meal:
Dark is the ground; a slumber seems to steal
O’er vale, and mountain, and the starless sky.
Now, in this blank of things, a harmony,
Home-felt, and home-created, comes to heal
That grief for which the senses still supply
Fresh food; for only then, when memory
Is hushed, am I at rest. My Friends! restrain
Those busy cares that would allay my pain;
Oh! leave me to myself, nor let me feel
The officious touch that makes me droop again.

 

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

 for only then, when memory
Is hushed, am I at rest.

 

It is amazing to find these lines about the burden of memory in the poetry of one so young. But  Wordsworth, like Milton and Yeats, seems to have begun his poetical life at a place and perspective that most poets arrive at only at the end of a long career.

Slowing Down and the National Pastime

altuve_hitting

José Carlos Altuve, my favorite player to watch

 

As I have mentioned often recently, I am trying to deal with the madness that is Trump in a variety of ways. All of which, in the end, amount to slowing things down.

So far this has involved: tuning out of the 24-hour news cycle and reading more intentionally. Now that it is April, it also involves baseball.

Until the baseball “strike” of 1994-95, baseball was as central to the rhythms of my life as almost anything. The bitter taste of those seasons though, changed all of that for me. And over the years, I drifted further and further away from the game.

Last autumn’s post-season helped remind me why baseball matters. The Cubs, the first Major League  team I ever got to watch and follow in person, helped bring me back. And now, when I need it most, I find that baseball is in my life again. I call that grace. And this, after all, is the season of grace.

Baseball seems to me the perfect antidote to Trump and the 24-hour news cycle he dominates. Everything about it– its history, its pace, its long season– reminds us of what we have need of most  today.

As part of the process, I have begun a baseball journal that I am keeping this season. In it I am recording notes about games I listen to on my MLB app, games I may watch on television, articles and books I read, and things I remember from 50+ years of loving the game.

Over the summer, some of these notes and thoughts may find their way here.

In the mean time, here are a few baseball quotes. Enjoy!

Baseball Quotes:

“Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand.” ~ Leo Durocher

“No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.” ~Tommy Lasorda

“A man has to have goals – for a day, for a lifetime – and that was mine, to have people say, ‘There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.” ~ Ted Williams

“Hitting is fifty percent above the shoulders ~ Ted Williams

“Though we thumped, wept, and chanted ‘We want Ted’ for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he refused. Gods do not answer letters.” – John Updike in “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” (The New Yorker, 10/22/1960)

Music Monday: Cannonball Adderley

Cannonball Adderley is probably the least appreciated “saxophone giant.” With the possible exception of Lester Young and Coltrane there is no other saxophone player I enjoy listening to as much.

This version of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” from 1966 seems like a great way to begin Holy Week to me.

Enjoy!