Saturday, January 7, 2012

Make It Anew

Get back to where you once belonged. A-bloggin’ we shall go. It’s a New Year, and Blogocentrism is being revived to offset, somewhat, the long withdrawing roar of my opinionated pronouncements, the efforts to get 'on record' (or on web) a lifetime of critical aper├žus before, like the song says, 'the man says it’s time to go.'  Or maybe it’s just to comment upon the days as they pass, to make an online scrapbook of whatever comes to mind.

I will make the effort, I hope. It shouldn’t be too much to ask: finding something worth posting about a few times a week. Some days there might just be links to something else on the Web. To let clips and links speak for themselves is also a kind of commentary, isn’t it?

Today is the 93rd anniversary of the birth of Robert Duncan, an American poet from San Francisco.  Here’s a link to his bio on  It’s also the 40th anniversary of the death of John Berryman, who ended his life by jumping from a bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, at 57.   So let’s think about poets.

Here’s the text of one of Duncan’s poems:

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow
by Robert Duncan

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart,

an eternal pasture folded in all thought

so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light

wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am

I say are likenesses of the First Beloved

whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill

whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words

that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing

east against the source of the sun

in an hour before the sun's going down

whose secret we see in a children's game

of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow

as if it were a given property of the mind

that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,

everlasting omen of what is.

There are many lines here that glow with the force of the kind of lyricism Duncan prizes: “whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words / that is a field folded”—“a place of first permission,” a meadow, “as if it were a scene made-up by the mind.”  Poetry is conceived as a most deliberate game of make-believe, a willful reading of the world according to the light of the imagination—“a given property of the mind.”  When that light fails, things get very dark indeed.

And here’s a song by Australian singer/songwriter Nick Cave that, among other things, commemorates Berryman’s despairing plunge, even as it suggests that the author is an absence behind the words that always eludes us—unless we find the presence in the words themselves.

Finally, a favorite bit of Berryman--Dream Song 1--where the lines “empty grows every bed,” so soon after the elation “all at the top” of the sycamore, feel as inevitable, as soothingly eternal, as the ocean wearing the land away.

Keep the faith, with hope and charity.