Dear Poetry Readers:
In the way of unique alliances for Cascade communications, I’d like to extend an invitation to any of the Long Valley blog readers, to come to Reme’s Coffee Shop to hear and read some poetry. In terms of alluring communication, I should probably have placed Philip Levine’s poem “Our Valley” prior to W.S. Merwin’s work, but the announcement has been sent as follows
Before summer’s heat vanishes and the keen hint of fall arrives, I have hopes we can manage a get-together to read some poetry, one’s own creation or another poet’s. Sometimes we have set a theme, but this time it is open to any type of verse or subject matter.
Where: Cascade: Réme’s Tea Leaves -N- Coffee Beans at 121 Main Street
When: Wednesday, August 24th, 2011, at 6:00PM
Perhaps some of you have noticed that W.S. Merwin’s short stint as Poet Laureate of the United States has finished. Succeeding him in that role, starting this week, Philip Levine has been named the new laureate.
First, here is a sample of Merwin’s strange, unpunctuated verse, always something challenging in them because the reader is the editor of pausing and breathing:
At the last minute a word is waiting
not heard that way before and not to be
repeated or ever be remembered
one that always had been a household word
used in speaking of the ordinary
everyday recurrences of living
not newly chosen or long considered
or a matter for comment afterward
who would ever have thought it was the one
saying itself from the beginning through
all its uses and circumstances to
utter at last that meaning of its own
for which it had long been the only word
though it seems now that any word would do
By W.S. Merwin (from Atlantic, May 1999)
Levine’s poetry is much more accessible and more sensuous than Merwin’s logical conundrum. Idahoans might appreciate his poem “Our Valley”:
We don’t see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.
You probably think I’m nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you’re thrilled and terrified.
You have to remember this isn’t your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.