shameless with hayden carruth

I found this week’s poem reading through The Seleced Poetry of Hayden Carruth (Macmillan, 1985). In his introduction, Galway Kinnell quotes Carolyn Kizer’s response to the question of what it takes to be a poet: “It is necessary to be absolutely shameless.” There are many things this could mean. For one, Carruth was writing at a time when the term “confessional” was rooting itself into the poetic landscape. But there is more to what Kizer means than gossip, per se. There is a depth of feeling to Carruth’s work that is tapped into indirectly.

fireAn example of what I mean can be found below. The narrative of “In Memoriam” is straightforward through the first six lines; the stoking of a fire in winter described in these lines grounds the poem in physicality. The repetition of the word “suddenly” in line six, however, marks a turn from the physical to the emotional. The speaker goes on to describe reading the poems of a recently deceased poet in the same straightforward manner as the fire, only this act of reading coincides with an increase of heat in the room. This coinciding blurs the physical and emotional in a shameless way; the heat that overwhelms the speaker is evoked on both levels. Rather than state his grief directly, the poem moves on carrying the charge of these blurred states through imagery. The admission (or confession) in these lines, however, occurs in the clarity of each line, and rings out because of it.

In Memoriam – Hayden Carruth

This warmish night of the thaw
in January a beech chunk
smoldering in my Herald
No. 22A box stove suddenly
takes fire and burns
hot, or rather I suddenly
who was reading the sweet
and bitter poems of Paul
Goodman dead last summer
am aware how my shed
becomes a furnace, and taking
my shovel I ladle
a great mush of snow
into the stove’s mouth
to quieten it
and then step quickly
outside again to watch
the plume of steam rise
from my stovepipe straightly
and vanish into mist.


Happy misting!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: