Sunday, November 1, 2009

Rain Poems, II

The poetry of Robert Creeley, who died in 2005 at the age of 79 in Odessa, Texas, has always seemed a little creepy to me. I don’t know why. Creeley was known as a very genial, shy man who was extremely approachable. He spent much of his life (from 1967-2003) on the English faculty of the University of Buffalo.

It may be that my attitude towards Creeley’s poetry is shaped by its relentless internal focus. I’ve always preferred looking out a society rather than inside my own mind, but most twentieth century American poetry looks inward and Creeley certainly shares that obsession with our interior lives.

In the following poem Creeley seems to lament his inability to escape that inward focus.

The Rain
by Robert Creeley

All night the sound had
come back again,
and again falls
this quite, persistent rain.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,
insisted upon
so often? Is it

that never the ease,
even the hardness,
of rain falling
will have for me

something other than this,
something not so insistent--
am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.

The great American poet Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 and died fifty-five years later, making a rough contemporary of Hardy and Stevenson, but the style of her poetry is much more modern. Famously a recluse, much of Dickinson’s poetry is also in-looking, perhaps in part because of the limited role outside society played in her life.

In the following poem, Dickinson looks (or rather listens) to the outside world and finds that what at first seemed rain is wind instead. The wind is nothing prosaic but a cosmic force full of fury and spiritual significance until is sweeps away leaving the world unchanged except in memory.

Like Rain it sounded till it curved
by Emily Dickinson

Like Rain it sounded till it curved
And then I new 'twas Wind --
It walked as wet as any Wave
But swept as dry as sand --
When it had pushed itself away
To some remotest Plain
A coming as of Hosts was heard
It filled the Wells, it pleased the Pools
It warbled in the Road --
It pulled the spigot from the Hills
And let the Floods abroad --
It loosened acres, lifted seas
The sites of Centres stirred
Then like Elijah rode away
Upon a Wheel of Cloud.

I hope by the time you read this that the rain has become only a memory and that two by two you all are simply singing in the showers while the sun shines all around you.

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