Tuesday, March 31, 2015

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Drawing Rooms


A partial list of writers I have enjoyed reading would include: Anne Carson, Elizabeth Bishop, Zora Neale Hurston, Virginia Woolf, Mary Shelley, Willa Cather, Maxine Kumin, Toni Morrison, Emily Dickinson, Anne Tyler, Annie Dillard, Rita Mae Brown, Terri Jenkins-Brady, Lisel Mueller, Gertrude Stein.

But right now I’m thinking about Galway Kinnell.  His tour de force poem, “The Bear,” I read at least once a year.  (Spoiler alert:  I love tours de force. Yes, I want to marry one.) 

My library is a cleanroom containing only tours de force.  Pollutants in the form of effete strains such as “Four o’clock found her in the drawing-room.” (Edith Wharton) or “When, shortly afterwards, in this lady’s vast drawing-room…” (Henry James) have been filtered out. Tours de force; we don’t need no stinkin’ drawing rooms.

As a poet, Galway Kinnell was a beast.  But he could also do the delicate work; he saw clearly and wrote clean, sweet, fine lines:  hummingbirds he described as “…those tiny, irascible,/nectar-addicted puritans…” Or, a different bird, “…think of the wren/and how little flesh is needed to make a song.” Like listening through a straw. 

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