Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Carl Dennis

Carl Dennis won the Pulitzer in 2002 for Practical Gods. Dennis is Professor of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and author of seven other volumes of poetry as well as a book of criticism. He was born in St. Louis and received his doctorate in English literature at the University of California at Berkeley.


It's not the idle who move us but the few
Often confused with the idle, those who define
Their project in life in terms so ample
That nothing they ever do is a digression,
Each chapter contributing its own rare gift
As a chapter in Moby Dick on squid or hard tack
Is just as important to Ishmael as a fight with a whale.
The hapy few who refuse to live for the plot's sake.
Major or minor, but for texture and tone and hue.
For them weeding a garden all afternoon
Can't be construed as a detour from the road of life.
The road narrows to a garden path that turns
And circles to show that traveling goes only so far
As a metaphor. the day rests on the grass.
And at night the books of these few,
Lined up on their desks, don't look like drinks
Lined up on a bar to helpthem evade their troubles.
They look like an escort of mountain guides
Come to conduct the climber to a lofty outlook
Rising serene above the fog. For them the view
Is no digression thought it won't last long
And they won't remember even the vivid details.
the supper with friends back in the village
In a dining room brightened with flowers and paintings
No digression for them though the talk leads
To no breakthrough. The topic they happen to hit on
Isn't a ferry to carry them over the interval
Between soup and salad. It's a raft drifitng down stream
And birds of many colors rise from the reeds.
Everyone tries to name them and fails
For an hour no one considers idle.

from POETRY May 1998



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