Friday, June 13, 2014

If You Love Poetry and Hate Self-Indulgence

Here's a fresh-voiced Canadian poet I happened on while reading a blog by memoirist and poet Richie Hoffman. Hoffman is reading Robert Bringhurst's "Selected Poems," from Copper Canyon and says he is "in thrall to this body of work: serious and playful, political and spiritual, formal, lyrical, learned and sublime.

These Poems, She Said

These poems, these poems,
these poems, she said, are poems
with no love in them. These are the poems of a man
who would leave his wife and child because
they made noise in his study. These are the poems
of a man who would murder his mother to claim
the inheritance. These are the poems of a man
like Plato, she said, meaning something I did not
comprehend but which nevertheless
offended me. These are the poems of a man
who would rather sleep with himself than with women,
she said. These are the poems of a man
with eyes like a drawknife, with hands like a pickpocket’s
hands, woven of water and logic
and hunger, with no strand of love in them. These
poems are as heartless as birdsong, as unmeant
as elm leaves, which if they love love only
the wide blue sky and the air and the idea
of elm leaves. Self-love is an ending, she said,
and not a beginning. Love means love
of the thing sung, not of the song or the singing.
These poems, she said….
                                       You are, he said,
                That is not love, she said rightly.

Bringhurst has published over a dozen collections of poetry, including "The Beauty of the Weapons: Selected Poems 1972-1982" and "Selected Poems.
In an interview with "Intelligent Life," Bringhurst spoke about his poetry’s interest in philosophical questions rather than personal exploration:
“I am not my favorite subject. The earth is a lot bigger and more interesting than I am. I also have a strong desire, as I was saying, not to be trapped in my own time. The poetry of the present, when it isn’t playing language games, is routinely full of self-display and personal confession—or to put it more kindly, it is full of self-exploration. In classical Greece or Tang Dynasty China or Renaissance Italy, and in the great oral cultures that were native to North America, there was very little art of that kind. Artists in those times and places were interested in human relations too, and had serious questions to ask themselves—but most of the time they found it more fruitful and more powerful not to deal with the self directly.”