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.

 

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