Friday, October 25, 2013

I bought one book at the Bangor Goodwill yesterday: a battered, ex-waterlogged, paperback copy of Muriel Rukeyser's The Life of Poetry, originally published in 1949 and reprinted in 1996--with (and how odd is this?) an index compiled by the mother of my college friend Lucy, who was also one of our Winter's Tale readers.

I open the book, and this is what Rukeyser says to me:
The truth of the poem is the truth both of the poet and the reader. It has been given and taken. 
Whitman is a "bad influence"; that is, he cannot be imitated. He can, in hilarious or very dull burlesques, be parodied; but anyone who has come under his rhythms to the extent of trying to use them knows how great a folly is there. He cannot be extended; it is as if his own curse on "poems distill'd from poems" were still effective (as it forever is); but what is possible is to go deeper into one's own sources, the body and the ancient religious poetry, and go on with the work he began. 
The poet stands in relation to Nature; this does not mean landscape, as Robert Frost points out, but the "whole Goddamn machinery."
Anyone dealing with poetry and the love of poetry must also deal, then, with the hatred of poetry, and perhaps even more with the indifference which is driven toward the center.
Re the Frost comment: I think I may have found the epigraph for my Chestnut Ridge collection. That sentence shoots me right through the heart.


Ruth said...

That does just about sum it all up, doesn't it?

Lucy Grace said...

Really, Pat Holland? I don't remember her doing that (was it a reprint of a 70s edition, a more likely time for her to do such work and for me to not pay attention)

Dawn Potter said...

Doesn't say so, but who knows? Maybe there are two of them.