Wednesday, March 31, 2010

cheating on Wordsworth; NOT about the bike

I've had Richard Hugo on the brain for the last two days. This happens sometimes; poets who are unrelated to my dissertation project cut in on my dance with Wordsworth and agrarianism. I suppose I have a hard time remaining intellectually monogamous, but over the last two months, I've had distracting dalliances with Sandburg, Auden, Yeats, and now Hugo.

I worry sometimes that these digressions mean that I'm turning into a dilettante--or that I've always been one. The dissertation phase of a doctorate is supposed to involve a complete immersion in one small aspect of literary study and theory; I'm supposed to emerge from it as an "expert" about that one thing. But there's so much to learn about Wordsworth and agricultural revolution that I can't grasp it all without coming up for air every now and again. So I meditate or ruminate over a different poetics, trying to clear out my vision. Or maybe I'm just fickle--an eternal reader of anthologies rather than collected works.

But the rhythms and cadences of a new or old familiar poet open up new channels in the body, and their metaphors activate parts of the brain that otherwise lay dormant without their influence. It's a lot like a lonely longing for a new friend or lover:  a simple desire to use the crutch of someone else to catalyze the discovery of a part of myself that I thought I'd lost or never even knew existed.

I'll be 40 soon. I've been involved with my wife for almost 15 years. I've been studying Romanticism for almost eight. So I guess a thinker just has to remind himself, every now and again, that despite all the other delectable options, he's most comfortable on his old familiar road.

Hugo and step-daughter, 1974

"Glen Uig"
Believe in this couple this day who come
to picnic in the Faery Glen. They pay rain
no matter, or wind. They spread their picnic
under a gale-stunted rowan. Believe they grew tired
of giants and heroes and know they believe
in wise tiny creatures who live under the rocks.

Believe these odd mounds, the geologic joke
played by those wise tiny creatures far from
the world's pitiful demands: make money, stay sane.
Believe the couple, by now soaked to the skin,
sing their day as if dry, as if sheltered inside
Castle Ewen. Be glad Castle Ewen's only a rock
that looks like a castle. Be glad for no real king.

These wise tiny creatures, you'd better believe,
have lived through it all: the Viking occupation,
clan torturing clan, the Clearances, the World War
II bomber gone down, a fiery boom
on Beinn Edra. They saw it from here. They heard
the sobs of last century's crofters trail off below
where every day the Conon sets out determined for Uig.
They remember the Viking who wandered off course,
under the hazelnut tree hating aloud all he'd done.

Some days dance in the bracken. Some days go out
wide and warm on bad roads to collect the dispossessed
and offer them homes. Some days celebrate addicts
sweet in their dreams and hope to share with them
a personal spectrum. The loch here's only a pond,
the monster is in it small as a wren.

Believe the couple who have finished their picnic
and make wet love in the grass, the tiny wise creatures
cheering them on. Believe in milestones, the day
you left home forever and the cold open way
a world wouldn't let you come in. Believe you
and I are that couple. Believe you and I sing tiny
and wise and could if we had to eat stone and go on.

1 comment:

  1. Your posts always make my brain hurt. It's a bitter reminder how my brain has turned to mush since graduation. You sure you can't come to medical school and teach English literature for us?