Friday, August 22, 2008


Tracy: When I put that poem up there for you I wanted to include this short piece by the author, Phillip Levine, but I no longer had the book wherein it appears. I just did a library search and found it.
I had bought the book, Poets Choice edited by Paul Engle in the early 60's, it's a collection of many poets favorite poems, each with a short descriptive piece but it went the wrong way in a divorce. I thought the poem and the descriptive piece were a perfect match, they had to be read together so here they are as part of our ongoing off-topic poetry thread. If it's hard to read, click on it.



TracyK said...

I've been coming back to the poem GF< I like to roll a poem around in my mind for a bit before commenting on it, like to come back with fresh eyes and everything and the lines that are staying with me are
"What do we do to those we need,
To those whose need of us endures
Even the knowledge of what we are?"
I like the nurtuering natural images in the first stanza that gradually become a metaphor for time passing too, very effective.It's usually good to know the background of a poem too, and this definitely added to my appreciation of it. I don't like my illusions being shattered, so I didn't like finding out about An Arundel Tomb, for example. Being nosey, I also enjoy hearing why people identify with certain words while others don't work so well: can you explain when you first read it for me, or is that too intrusive?

goneforeign said...

God damn! whilst you were away we had a long discussion about how the Spill can swallow and lose a comment, I just wrote a long piece about this poem and suddenly, pouf', it was gone! I'll come back to it and try again tomorrow....T.

goneforeign said...

Tracy: OK, another go, this time I'm doing what I usually do except when I'm not thinking, I'm writing it on a scratch pad and pasting it.
The three lines you quote have been rather obscure for me also, they seem slightly out of place in a poem like this but I think he's being totally honest regarding the two way flow of needs: 'those we need' and 'need of us', it's the next line I have more trouble with, I understand it to mean 'all of our unspoken shortcomings'.

Back in the early 60's there was a book published 'Poets Choice' edited by Paul Engle, it's a compilation of 100 odd then living poets who chose their own personal favorite and each wrote a short piece about it. The Los Angeles Times reviewed it and chose to re-print this poem and statement. I loved it instantly and promptly bought the book. When I thought of this poem for you I wanted to post both parts but I no longer had the book, it went the wrong way in a divorce about 35 years ago so I found the poem online but the statement wasn't with it, I posted it anyway. I did a search through my local library and found a copy of the original book so I ordered it and the rest is history. When I opened it and found the poem and read the statement my eyes welled up again as they had 40 odd years ago, I find it to be a really touching statement about a man's love for his wife. I hope you like it, you'd enjoy the book also if you could find a used copy at Amazon.

TracyK said...

I think I will keep an eye out, I'm trying to get more into obscurer poets. there was a gorgeous Russian poem on the Books blog Poem of the Wekk a few months back, about a bridge and an affair. I understood those lines to "what does our love and relationsip do, in time, to those whose love of us continues, even when they know all of our failings?" I think he is looking at his wife and wondering how has he deserved to win and keep her love, even though the first flush of romance must be over, and how their relationship, particularly bearing his children, has tested and aged her. It was interesting that he said he first of all loved her beauty. Now, in this poem, she is older and has a different kind of beauty in her maturity. I could be wrong of course!
As for the next line, isn't winter coming? Is there a hint of old-age or death in the way she is preparing the garden, as they too are approaching the winter of their life? It is an opaque line, it's one of the things I hope comes to me after running the poem round a few times anmd mulling it over, to come to a gradual discovery rather than just Googling it!