Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"The Hawk" by Franz Wright

Franz Wright, to his fellow monsters (us).

"The Hawk" by Franz Wright

Maybe in a million years
a better form of human
being will come, happier
and more intelligent. A few already
have infiltrated this world and lived
to very much regret it,
I suppose.
I'd prefer to have come
in the form of that hawk, floating over
the mirroring fire
of Clearlake's
hill, my gold
skull filled with nothing
but God's will
the whole day through, instead
of these glinting voices incessantly
unerringly guiding me
to pursue
what makes me sick, and not to
what makes me glad. And yet
I am changing: this three-pound lump
of sentient meat electrified
by hope and terror has learned to hear
His silence like the sun,
and sought to change!
And friends
on earth at the same time
as me, listen: from the sound of those crickets
last night, Rene Char said
prenatal life
must have been sweet -
each voice perhaps also a star
in that night
from which
this time
we won't be
interrupted anymore - but
fellow monsters while we are still here, for one minute, think
about this: there is someone right now who is looking
to you, not Him, for whatever
love still exists.

~ Franz Wright ~
from God's Silence


JG said...

Thanks for this, Phil. Great poem. Shades of Robinson Jeffers!

JG said...

Thanks, Phil--great poem. Shades of Robinson Jeffers!

Anonymous said...

Poetry accomplishes nothing, as Auden noted--I'm surprised you are keeping his famous statement out of your argument, which apparently seeks to make a case that poetry is only great if it does. It's absurd. There are cases where poets--Blake,Whitman, Yeats, Neruda, Robert Bly come to mind--have managed to write great
lyric poems with political content. Such poetry DID NOT cause the murderers and/or the super affluent and powerful to shake in their boots! You'd have to be a fool to believe that. They may have worried the already clinically paranoid, clearly psychopathic leaders such as Stalin and caused a few poets to die by being to sent to slave labor camps where nobody of any consequence witnessed their end. That is about the only dramatic effect any great poem has had. We are much more cunning about it--we created a society in which poets can say any God damned things they please--Ginsberg was never sent to prison for anything he wrote or said--and they are totally ignored. Do you know why they are totally ignored? Because poetry in our society does not make substantial amounts of money for anyone, quite the contrary. Many of the best presses lose money by doing it, and I don't think they have an office at the CIA, FBI or the White House keeping track of subversive poetry. (It turned out the macho cross-dressing lunatic J.Edgar Hoover who headed the FBI for many decades bugged some of their phones and kept files on them--Bly included, because of his anti-Vietnam war activities; but they never would have tried to show up and intimidate or physically assault him and his family and send them away to secret prisons. They didn't have to bother--they knew most people in the U.S. consider poetry to be a meaningless force, and so it is, in their terms. It certainly can get inside and give courage to the hearts of those already disposed to pay attention to it, but there are not many people like that in our culture, and it has to be very great poetry to touch even those few--the kind of poetry most people would see if they were to dip into it, contemporary poetry, would be incomprehensible garbage these days. The MFA writing programs which help enrich colleges and universities have not produced any great poetry,in fact they are like factories to destroy the spirits of potentially great poets. There is much more to be said on the subject, but my advice would be to heed Rilke's: You must change you life. If you are able to change to own life, your own soul, you may be in a position to influence others, and in countries where many people read poetry I suppose it could poetry might have some effect on shared objective political reality. But people DO NOT READ POETRY in the U.S. Even people who write it, or write something that looks like it, something that is very bad prose with arbitrary line lengths and a lot of horseshit meant not to be understood at at, probably for the purpose of concealing a lack of real talent or passion or anything very interesting to say. Richard Howard, at a PEN gathering over ten years ago, was heard to mutter, There are more writers than readers of poetry in the U.S. FW

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Philip Metres said...

Is that Franz Wright on the phone? Dear Franz, lovely poem. Thanks for your work. If you're interested in the full argument that I've made about what poetry can do, please check out Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941. It argues that poets have had a key role in nurturing and critiquing the peace movement in the 20th century. I agree with you that we don't write poems with the idea that we will change psychopathic minds of leaders, nor the masses. But we write it for each other. Last week, there was the Peace Show, in Cleveland, where for the past couple years I've been gathering stories of war and peace, for a book project and an exhibition, to bring the voices and faces of peace workers to us again. In a week, I'm going over to a Pax Christi meeting and will read poems and do a poetry exercise, to bring us together in our common imaginings of peace. It's small stuff, but I can't imagine my life without it.