Thursday, April 7, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--No. 7

I picked up Robert Hass's most recent book of new and selected poems, The Apple Trees at Olema, from the Poetry Month display at my local library. I'm not that familiar with Hass. To be honest, I liked the cover and the title:

I'm a sucker for a bird on a cover. Anyway, the way I usually read books of poetry is to start with some skimming and scanning. I page through, stopping at poems whose titles I like, maybe reading a few lines here and there, kind of finding poems by happenstance. Nothing very deliberate or planned out. I just usually don't have time to sit down and read 60 pages in one sitting or something like that. So I just end up leafing through.

I definitely want to spend more time with this book, but I wanted to share a new-to-me poem "Faint Music." It was actually published in 1996. And I'm actually pretty obsessed with it. I'm sure I've read it at least 10 different times now. Here's the beginning...

Faint Music
by Robert Hass

Maybe you need to write a poem about grace.

When everything broken is broken,   
and everything dead is dead,
and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,
and the heroine has studied her face and its defects
remorselessly, and the pain they thought might,
as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves
has lost its novelty and not released them,
and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,
watching the others go about their days—
likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears—
that self-love is the one weedy stalk
of every human blossoming, and understood,
therefore, why they had been, all their lives,   
in such a fury to defend it, and that no one—
except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool
of poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automatic
life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,
faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.

Read the rest here. I really think the poem could have ended there. But it keeps going into this sprawling, almost miserable tale of a guy getting his heart ripped out, only to circle around at the end with an ending that makes you think that, will all be okay. It's a pretty long poem, too, and that's not something I generally enjoy. But I just can't help getting wrapped up in this one. When you get time, give it a good reading (or two, or four...). Let me know what you think.

I'll be back tomorrow for the start of week two of our National Poetry Month series!

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