Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Last Poem in the World

Hayden Carruth, an American poet, died September 29th. If you don't know his work, you should. In more than thirty books of verse, published over a long lifetime, Carruth wrote some of the best poems -- and created some of the best sustained reading in American poetry -- in the past half century.
Carruth's poems reflect his liberality of mind, his respect for American speech and character, and his deep appreciation for American forms, particularly jazz.

Late in life, the poet finally began to receive the respect and recognition he deserved; winning prizes, seeing collected editions of his work, being discussed and taught, at long last, in academia. His life, particularly his later life, was never easy and he was forced to struggle with serious health issues, mental and physical. Yet of all the poets of his generation, he remained perhaps the greatest celebrant of common moments: of life as seen from his window, of common meals, of simple kindness, of a Charlie Parker tune.

by Hayden Carruth
Sometimes we don’t say anything. Sometimes

we sit on the deck and stare at the masses of

goldenrod where the garden used to be

and watch the color change form day to day,

the high yellow turning to mustard and at last

to tarnish. Starlings flitter in the branches

of the dead hornbeam by the fence. And are these

therefore the procedures of defeat? Why am I

saying all this to you anyway since you already

know it? But of course we always tell

each other what we already know. What else?

It’s the way love is in a late stage of the world.

from “Collected Shorter Poems” Copper Canyon Press, 1992

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