bottom of franklin hill turn around
5% snow-covered / 40% puddles
Above freezing with a mostly clear path. Lots of puddles. Lots of sun. Several shadows. Right before I started my run the shadow of a big bird passed over me. Later, running on the trail, I saw my shadow running in front of me. The view of the river and the gorge was bright and open and brown. Smelled breakfast at the Longfellow Grill, some pot from one passing car, cigar smoke from another. Felt the grit under my feet. Noticed the curve of a pine tree, with branches only on one side. I thought: a curved spine, the branches vertebrae.
Here’s my Pastan poem for today:
Squint/ Linda Pastan
and that low line
of blue cloud
over the treetops
could be an ocean–the roar
of the highway
the clamorous waves
And that dark shape menacing
your every footstep
could be no more
than your own obedient shadow.
See whatever you want
to see. Even
at the moment of death
forget the door
opening on darkness.
See instead the familiar faces
you thought were lost.
See whatever you want/to see. This makes me think of the video interview I watched with Kelli Russell Agodon yesterday, when she discusses being oriented towards beauty, only seeing the beauty, ignoring the ugliness. The title Squint makes me think of a lecture I saw online about how painters often squint to see how to paint the depth and texture of objects.
It’s interesting to juxtapose this poem and its turn away from the darkness of death with some of the passages below from Pastan’s interviews in which she talks about how she’s always looking for the danger beneath the surface.
some words from Linda Pastan
You open “The Poets” with the line “They are farmers, really.”
That was partly tongue in cheek, partly serious. For me, there are two distinct phases in the writing of a poem—first the inspiration phase, when language and metaphor come mysteriously into my head, then the planting, sowing, farming phase, otherwise known as revision. The first is a kind of gift, as in “gifted”—it can’t be taught. The second is a matter of learning and practicing one’s craft. But it’s also true that I couldn’t resist having poems planted in manure-filled rows and having poets eyeing each other over bushel baskets in the marketplace.
The last two lines of my poem “Vermilion” are “As if revision were / the purest form of love.” And I believe that for a poet it is. Many of my poems go through at least a hundred revisions—I can spend a whole morning putting in a comma and then taking it out and putting it back in. And I think that perhaps I am at my happiest sitting at my desk polishing a poem, trying to make every word the perfect word.
I am indeed interested, you might say obsessed, not with ordinary life per se but with the dangers lurking just beneath its seemingly placid surface, one of those dangers being loss itself. Death, of course, is the ultimate danger, the ultimate loss, and as I move closer to it, I write about it more frequently and perhaps more feelingly. Though I recently came upon some poems I wrote when I was twelve, and they, too, are about death.The Looming Dark: An Interview with Linda Pastan
a popular story about her:
There’s a popular story about Linda Pastan: she won her first poetry prize as a senior at Radcliffe in the fifties, and the runner-up was one Sylvia Plath. It was an auspicious start for Pastan, even if she had never heard of Plath at the time.
a blogger’s explanation of why she likes Pastan:
What do I like about Pastan’s work? Her clarity in brevity, the conciseness of her description that makes each word she uses necessary, her way of writing about what surrounds her with the understanding that surfaces mask tensions and the darker things below; her down-to-earth voice that makes her writing so accessible; the images that stick with you; the intimacy she has with her subjects: relationships, domestic tableau, aging, dying—the things we all struggle with, for, and against.Poet: Linda Pastan
and Pastan’s description of the dangers always lurking below the surface:
JEFFREY BROWN:We’re sitting here on a beautiful day in a beautiful place, but you feel dangers lurking?
LINDA PASTAN:Always, yes, yes. I feel the cells starting to multiply someplace inside me. I feel when the phone rings, is somebody calling to say something terrible has happened. I’ve just always been very conscious of the fragility of life and relationships.Linda Pastan: PBS Newshour