Jan 16, 2009


I learned of Andrew Wyeth's death on my way to work this morning. I stewed about it much of the day. Wyeth was 91. That's old by anyone's calender. I couldn't help but think what I would be doing when I'm 91. Or 101. Hell, 61?

I had the opportunity to see local poet John Haines speak a few weeks ago. He's 84, and it struck my while I was listening to him speak that this could be the last time I would hear him speak. John's stooped, but obviously still strong, frame moved slowly but with the confidence of a man who knew himself absolutely. To listen to him read poems from his 20s and 30s with the same resolve, the same certainty, made me appreciate art more as an antidote. This is a man who has, I understand, not had an easy go of it, but for the better part of half a decade he strung together single words to make a whole that elevated the language. He demonstrated by his readings that it was possible to create, for yourself, a life of creating.

What I found interesting about his reading was that there was a distinct evolution along the time line of his career when heard from his own tongue. I don't know a lot about poetry, but it seemed obvious. I'm sure the critics think some of his poems were brilliant, maybe some garbage, or all mediocre. I don't know, and don't much care. He celebrated, and practiced, his craft for over 50 years, and shared it with us.

So, am I man enough to do the same? I say yes. The truth is I've spent most of my adult life dreaming of my someday. Someday this. Someday that. Now, I know this sounds ridiculously sappy and sentimental, but again, I don't much care. I declare this is my someday.

The Stone Harp by John Haines

A road deepening in the north,
strung with steel,
resonant in the winter evening,
as though a stone harp
soon to be struck.

As if a spade
rang in a rock chamber:

in the subterranean light,
glittering with mica,
a figure like a tree turning to stone
stands on its charred roots
and tries to sing.

And the only poet is the wind,
a drifter
who walked in from the coast
with empty pockets.

He stands on the road
at evening, making a sound
like a stone harp
by a handful of leaves.


Rest in peace Mr. Wyeth

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