Thursday, July 12, 2012
The Straightforward Articulation of Suffering
I'm grateful to Washington State's Poet Laureate, Kathleen Flenniken, for featuring one of my recent poems on The Far Field.
I remember reading John Berryman’s “Dream Song #14” in my twenties, with its famous opening words, “Life, friends, is boring.” I remember being struck by its wit, irony, playfulness, delight: it is the kind of poem students read aloud to each other in a pool of laughter and admiration, and there is nothing wrong with that, for it reinforces their sense of cynicism and superiority, and it is crucial at that age we find a like-minded group to whom we can belong. I remember rereading the poem, not for the second time, some thirty years later, and being struck by its excruciating pain, which is entirely without irony. Many persons who knew Berryman have remarked that he spoke, always, without irony, which means, simply, that he always meant what he said. If you are going through a particularly stable period of your life, and you encounter his bleakest statements, you will react with chagrin and disbelief, as if listening to the ablest jester. If you are going through a particularly unstable period of your life, the straightforward articulation of suffering that has already twisted and dislocated its bearer renders a tension that will very nearly kill you. But I did not know this then.
-Mary Ruefle at Poetry
A kind of brain fever moved through me as I drove across Ohio and Pennsylvania toward my home in Boston. It was as if I were coming to life, like an insect or tree. The raw fact of my body breathed again. And I felt joy thinking of the elms still standing in Massachusetts after a half century of their blight spreading across America. Hasn’t someone confected blight-resistant elms by now that spring up “like a fountain” (Longfellow)?
-Henri Cole at The New Yorker
One thing I will say is that you don’t know what will happen if you write the truth. You don’t know what will happen if you decide to write what you feel really compelled to write. You think that there might be this consequence but there might actually be a different sort of outcome, and it could be a positive one.
-An interview with Cheryl Strayed over at The Rumpus