Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stanley Kunitz

American poet Stanley Kunitz has died at the age of 100. Here is the NYT obit and here is All Things Considered.

I've always been more of an admirer than a fan and never, to be honest, took the time to figure out why. I'd read his poems if I came across them, never seeking them out, and though the craftsmanship was abundantly evident, they just didn't ping me. But I know that his poetry was loved by people much more poetry smart than me, including two teachers I've been lucky enough to study with here at Georgetown.

Here is his

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.


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