Sunday, May 06, 2012

Happy Birthday Randall Jarrell !

Randall Jarrell
Today is the birthday of an American poet, literary critic, children's author, essayist, and novelist Randall Jarrell. Randall Jarrell (May 6, 1914 – October 14, 1965) was the 11th Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position that now bears the title Poet Laureate. He was noted for his acerbic, witty, and erudite criticism. In a volume of essays about Jarrell titled Randall Jarrell, 1914-1965, nearly all of the writers praised his critical faculties. Presenting some Poems : Being Poet

Mail Call

The letters always just evade the hand
One skates like a stone into a beam, falls like a bird.
Surely the past from which the letters rise
Is waiting in the future, past the graves?
The soldiers are all haunted by their lives.
Their claims upon their kind are paid in paper
That established a presence, like a smell.
In letters and in dreams they see the world.
They are waiting: and the years contract
To an empty hand, to one unuttered sound --
The soldier simply wishes for his name. 

Gunner

Did they send me away from my cat and my wife
To a doctor who poked me and counted my teeth,
To a line on a plain, to a stove in a tent?
Did I nod in the flies of the schools?
And the fighters rolled into the tracer like rabbits,
The blood froze over my splints like a scab --
Did I snore, all still and grey in the turret,
Till the palms rose out of the sea with my death?
And the world ends here, in the sand of a grave,
All my wars over? How easy it was to die!
Has my wife a pension of so many mice?
Did the medals go home to my cat? 
A Sick Child
The postman comes when I am still in bed.
"Postman, what do you have for me today?"
I say to him. (But really I'm in bed.)
Then he says - what shall I have him say?
"This letter says that you are president
Of - this word here; it's a republic."
Tell them I can't answer right away.
"It's your duty." No, I'd rather just be sick.
Then he tells me there are letters saying everything
That I can think of that I want for them to say.
I say, "Well, thank you very much. Good-bye."
He is ashamed, and turns and walks away.
If I can think of it, it isn't what I want.
I want . . . I want a ship from some near star
To land in the yard, and beings to come out
And think to me: "So this is where you are!
Come." Except that they won't do,
I thought of them. . . . And yet somewhere there must be
Something that's different from everything.
All that I've never thought of - think of me! 

Children Selecting Books In A Library

With beasts and gods, above, the wall is bright.
The child's head, bent to the book-colored shelves,
Is slow and sidelong and food-gathering,
Moving in blind grace ... yet from the mural, Care
The grey-eyed one, fishing the morning mist,
Seizes the baby hero by the hair
And whispers, in the tongue of gods and children,
Words of a doom as ecumenical as dawn
But blanched like dawn, with dew.
The children's cries
Are to men the cries of crickets, dense with warmth
-- But dip a finger into Fafnir, taste it,
And all their words are plain as chance and pain.
Their tales are full of sorcerers and ogres
Because their lives are: the capricious infinite
That, like parents, no one has yet escaped
Except by luck or magic; and since strength
And wit are useless, be kind or stupid, wait
Some power's gratitude, the tide of things.
Read meanwhile ... hunt among the shelves, as dogs do, grasses,
And find one cure for Every child’s diseases
Beginning: Once upon a time there was
A wolf that fed, a mouse that warned, a bear that rode
A boy. Us men, alas! wolves, mice, bears bore.
And yet wolves, mice, bears, children, gods and men
In slow perambulation up and down the shelves
Of the universe are seeking ... who knows except themselves?
What some escape to, some escape: if we find Swann's
Way better than our own, an trudge on at the back
Of the north wind to -- to -- somewhere east
Of the sun, west of the moon, it is because we live
By trading another's sorrow for our own; another's
Impossibilities, still unbeliever in, for our own ...
"I am myself still?" For a little while, forget:
The world's selves cure that short disease, myself,
And we see bending to us, dewy-eyed, the great
CHANGE, dear to all things not to themselves endeared.