Saturday, March 09, 2013


No sleep in me tonight - or I should say, this morning. Thoughts crowd in on me: yellow-jackets cluster on the hummingbird feeder. I should have been, said, thought, done...

Idle thoughts, but they won't leave me alone. So I drink this cinnamon tea, and let them build a nest.

I've glimpsed Arcturus rising twice, now. Spring. Jupiter and Aldebaran falling down into the west. The sky wheels every night, but it starts sooner every night too. Thank God at least for that. There's a larger wheel driving the one we see.

...Old-Who doesn't speak any more.

They used to have Thunder talk, or
The Rivers, or Leaves, or Birds. It's all
"Cheep, cheep" now. It's a long time
since a cloud said anything helpful.

Maybe. Maybe it's a long time since we listened properly.

You look at their little shoulders,
bent over but strong. Like them you
hunch against the wind and that weight 
pressing down -- Time on its way somewhere,
using us all, people and rocks,
as a prop, as a wobbly crutch.

So I'm reading William Stafford at long last. No one told me he was a comic poet! He makes me laugh, over and over. A wobbly crutch! Very wobbly. Poor Time!

It's barely poetry, in a way: I'm not sure how much his poems would lose if you wrote them out as prose. Or -- this really is a better way of putting it -- they make terrific prose, just as they stand. The poetry is in the thinking voice, and in the kindness. The pattern and texture of his words never run away on their own: no insurrections allowed. There's a strange tendency to think of formal poetry as more disciplined, more strict, tamer, but of course it's exactly the opposite. It's metrical pattern and rhyme that give the pretext for language to run amok, that bring the random, impudent, contradictory impulses in. You have to let the words swirl, if they're going to form patterns. Free verse is for people who don't like their words running away from them.

But that's all by the way. There's nothing stern or controlling about Stafford: but his poems do make sense. They say exactly what he means them to say. So far as I've read, anyway.

And now I think I'll try sleeping, again. 4:30. Good night!


Rouchswalwe said...

Several years ago, NPR described him as a "plainspoken poet." Intrigued, I rushed to the library and checked out several volumes. Thank you for bringing his poetry to mind again! I've had trouble sleeping, too and good prose-poetry always seems to help.

elisasspot said...

I laugh with him too when I read. I thought I was the only one, phew! :)
psst..i'd still laugh even if no one else did, i just like the feeling of remembering and noticing someone else noticing the same thing

alembic said...

It's been a very long time since I read Stafford, so long I can't remember what I thought of his work. I love what you said about it, though, but even more, I appreciate the "conclusion" it gave rise to: "Free verse is for people who don't like their words running away from them." (Yes! With you on that...)

Zhoen said...

I find myself doing what I did in college, going over and over my plans for planting like my schedule for graduating. And I wonder how many ancient farmers, gardeners, or travelers, repeated over and over the way ahead, making it poetry, mnemonics to find our way, grow our food, until it took on a life of it's own, chewing away at our worries - keeping us awake at night.