Archive for the 'Deep Image' Category

W.S. Merwin

March 7, 2007


William Stanley Merwin
Father was a Presbyterian minister and Merwin wrote hymns very early in his life
Received B.A. from Princeton where he met John Berryman
Left U.S. to live in England, France and Portugal
Supported himself by translating French and Spanish literature for broadcast by the BBC
Returned to the U.S. to be a playwright and editor
Revered nature and condemned its poisoning and destruction
Local and personal subjects
Made increasingly daring experiments in metrical irregularity and thematic disorganization
Melancholy poems tinged with surrealism, opens a hushed space for the irrational, the dead and the dying the be heard
Elegaic and prophetic
Sees traditional form as an obstacle to poetry’s naked condition
Verse is deliberately bare and meditative, avoids mannerisms and decorations


For a good decade / The furnace stood in the naked gully, fireless / And vacant as any hat. Then when it was / No more to them than a hulking black fossil / To erode unnoticed with the rest of the junk-hill / By the poisonous creek, and rapidly to be added / To their ignorance,
They were afterwards astonished / To confirm, one morning, a twist of smoke like a pale / Resurrection, staggering out of its chewed hole, / And to remark then other tokens that someone, / Cosily bolted behind the eye-holded iron / Door of the drafty burner, had there established / His bad castle.
Where he gets his spirits / It’s a mystery. But the stuff keeps him musical: / Hammer-and-anvilling with poker and bottle / To his jugged bellowings, till the last groaning clang / As he collapses onto the rioting / Springs of a littler of car-seats ranged on the grates, / To sleep like an iron pig.
In their tar-paper church / On a text about stoke-holes that are sated never / Their Reverend lingers. They nod and hate trespassers. / When the furnace wakes, though, all afternoon / Their witless offspring flock like piped rats to its siren / Crescendo, and agape on the crumbling ridge / Stand in a row and learn.

-The Drunk in the Furnace (in whole)

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day / When the last fires will wave to me / And the silence will se out / Tireless traveller / Like the beam of a lighless star
Then I will no longer / Find myself in life as in a strange garment / Surprised at the earth / And the love of one woman / And the shamelssness of men / As today writing after three days of rain / Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease / And bowing not knowing to what

-For the Anniversary of My Death (in whole)

When the forests have been destroyed their darkness remains  /The ash the great walker follows the possessors / Forever / Nothing they will come to is real / Nor for long / Over the watercourses / Like ducks in the time of the ducks / The ghosts of the villages trail in the sky / Making a new twilight / Rain falls into the open eyes of the dead / Again again with its pointless sound / When the moon finds them they are the color of everything
The nights disappear like bruises but nothing is healed / The dead go away like bruises / The blood vanishes into the poisoned farmlands / Pain the horizon / Remains / Overhead the seasons rock / They are paper bells / Calling to nothing living
The possessors move everywhere under Death their star / Like columns of smoke they advance into the shadow / Like thin flames with no light / They with no past / And fire their only future

-The Asians Dying (in whole)

Gray whale / Now that we are sending you to The End / That great god / Tell him / That we who follow you invented forgiveness / And forgive nothing
I write as though you could understand / And I could say it / One must always pretend something / Among the dying / When you have left the seas nodding on their stalks / Empty of you / Tell him that we were made / On another day
The bewilderment will diminish like an echo / Winding along your inner mountains / Unheard by us / And find its way out / Leaving behind it the future / Dead / And ours
When you will not see again / The whale calves trying the light / Consider what you will find in the black garden / And its court / The sea cows the Great Auks the gorillas / The irreplaceable hosts ranged countless / And fore-ordaining as stars / Our sacrifices / Join your word to theirs / Tell him / That it is we who are important

-For a Coming Extinction (in whole)


James Wright

March 7, 2007


Served with U.S. Army in Japan during the American occupation
Struggled with alcoholism and depression
Died of cancer of the tongue
Poems typically about men and women who find themselves outside society: most characteristic subjects were people apart and poor
Published translations
Kept his compassionate interest in social outcasts and an increasing confidence in the transforming beauty of nature


When I went out to kill myself, I caught / A pack of hoodlums beating up a man. / Running to spare hs suffering, I forgot / My name, my number, how my day began, / How soldiers milled around the garden stone / And sang amusing songs; how all that day / Their javelins measured crowds; how I alone / Bargained the proper coins, and slipped away.
Banished from heaven, I found this victim beaten, / Stripped, kneed, and left to cry. Dropping my rope / Aside, I ran, ignored the uniforms: / Then I remembered bread my flesh had eaten, / The kiss that ate my flesh. Flayed without hope, / I held the man for nothing in my arms.

-Saint Judas (in whole)

Judas was the apostle who betrayed Jesus with a kiss

In the Shreve High football stadium, / I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville, / And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood, / And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel, / Dreaming of heroes.
All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home. / Their women cluck like starved pullets, / Dying for love.
Therefore, / Their sons grow suicidally beautiful / At the beginning of October, / And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.

-Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio (in whole)

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly, / Asleep on the black trunk, / Blowing like a leaf in green shadow. / Down the ravine behind the empty house, / The cowbells follow one another / Into the distances of the afternoon. / To my right, / In a field of sunlight between two pines, / Blaze up into golden stones. / I leav back, as the evening darkens and comes on. / A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home. / I have wasted my life.

-Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota (in whole)

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota, / Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass. / And the eyes of those two Indian ponies / Darken with kindness. / They have come gladly out of the willows / To welcome my friend and me. / We step over the barbed wire into the pasture / Where they have been grazing all day, alone. / They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness / That we have come. / They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other. / There is no loneliness like theirs. / At home once more, / They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness. / I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms, / For she has walked over to me / And nuzzled my left hand. / She is black and white, / Her mane falls wild on her forehead, / And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear / That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist. / Suddenly I realize / That if I stepped out of my body I would break / Into blossom.

-A Blessing (in whole)

I had nothing to do with it. I was not here. / I was not born. / In 1862, when your hotheads / Raised hell from here to South Dakota, / My own fathers scattered into West Virginia / And southern Ohio. / My family fought the Confederacy / And fought the Union. / None of them got killed. / But for all that, it was not my fathers / Who murdered you. / Not much.
I don’t know / Where the fathers of Minneapolis finalized / Your flayed carcass. / Little Crow, true father / Of my dark America, / When I close my eyes I lose you among / Old loneliness. / My family were a lot of singing drunks and good carpenters. / We had brothers who loved one another no matter what they did. / And they did plenty.
I think they would have run like hell from your Sioux. / And when you caught them you all would have run like hell / From the Confederacy and from the Union / Into the hills and hunted for a few things, / Some bull-cat under the stones, a gar maybe, / If you were hungry, and if you were happy, / Sunfish and corn.
If only I knew where to mourn you, / I would surely mourn. / But I don’t know.
I did not com ehere only to grieve / For my people’s defeat. / The troops of the Union, who won, / Still outnumber us. / Old Paddy Beck, my great-uncle, is dead / At the old soldiers’ home near Tiffen, Ohio. / He got away with every last stitch / Of his uniform, save only / The dress trousers.
Oh all around us, / The hobo jungles of America grow wild again. / The pick handles bloom like your skinned spine. / I don’t even know where / My own grave is.

-A Centenary Ode: Inscribed to Little Crow, Leader of the Sioux Rebellion in Minnesota, 1862 (in whole)

Robert Bly

March 7, 2007


Served in the navy during WWII and then graduated from Harvard
Of Norwegian descent, spent a year in Norway
Translated a great number of writers
Reached his widest audience after the publication of Iron John: A Book About Men which sought to reclaim an archetypal masculinity of wisdon, strength and courage
Prime mover of Deep Image school
Poetry can be thought of as an underground or mystical imagism
Uses simple diction to describe external landscapes
Shunned formalism and contrived, cerebral poetry of the American acaemy
Poems often begin in homely setting
Much of his poetry has a political aspect, especially poems written about the Vietnam War


IIt is a clearing deep in a forest: overhanging boughs / Make a low place. Here the citizens we know during the day, / The ministers, the department heads, / Appear changed: the stockholders of large steel companies / In small wooden shoes: here are the generals dressed as gamboling / lambs.
Tonight they burn the rice-supplies; tomorrow / They lecture on Thoreau; tonight they move around trees; / Tomorrow they pick the twigs from their clothes; / Tonight they throw the firebombs; tomorrow / They read the Declaration of Independence; tomorrow they are in / church.
Ants are gathered around an old tree. / In a choir they sing, in harsh and gravelly voices, / Old Etruscan songs on tyranny. / Toads nearby clap their small hands, and join / The fiery songs, their five long toes trembling in the soaked earth.

-Johnson’s Cabinet Watched by Ants (in whole)

Dentists continue to water their lawns even in the rain; / Hands developed with terrible labor by apes / Hang from the sleeves of evangelists; / There are murdere kings in the light-bulbs outside movie theaters; / The coffins of the poor are hibernating in piles of new tires.
The janitor sits troubled by the boiler, / And the hotel keeper shuffles the cards of insanity. / The President dreams of invading
Cuba. / Bushes are growing over the outdoor grills, / Vines over the yachts and the leather seats.
The city broods over ash cans and darkening mortar. / On the far shore, at
Coney Island, dark children / Play on the chilling beach: a sprig of black seaweed, / Shells, a skyful of birds, / While the mayor sits with his head in his hands.

-The Great Society (in whole)