Excential Texts 8: Raworth
From "Letters from Yaddo" in VISIBLE SHIVERS:
This morning I had a letter from Marco Antonio, part of which says:--
I've sent you my long book, COLLECTED POEMS, to the University. Here it has been received with much verbal enthusiasm, but little written criticism. I wonder if it was worth the trouble, and the twenty years I spent writing it.
and he knows as he writes that the whole point is that there are no rewards. The pain, the depression, the loneliness are the flesh of the oyster: that's what poets taste like. And the relief is when a fleck of sand enters and the layers of pearl start building, taking your attention away from your self. There is no feedback from where we are . . . nothing ahead that can throw back an echo. We sit in silence waiting for the faintest sounds, which are the fragments of the name of god. And when they rise, we follow wherever they lead. As last night I followed them into the library, pulled down Maritain's CREATIVE INTUITION IN ART AND POETRY (and when else would I even look at a book like that?), opened it at random, and started reading a poem of Hart Crane's:--
Yes, I being
the terrible puppet of my dreams, shall
lavish this on you---
I live in a country whose poets are afraid of the dark and the wind because they carry burning books outside, which are soon blown out. They have forgotten how to carry a coal, which gives more light as the wind blows. Even the best of them withdraw from what they know they should do. The crack is there in front of them, but they're not sure if they could survive on the other side. They wait for a messenger to arrive and face them: to read out a list of houses, flats, bus schedules and the prices of canned foods. Every day the gap widens . . . and there are no poles left with which to vault across, no planks over which to crawl. Because the trees have long ago been cut down and made into paper for the books they thought would light their way.