Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday's Poem: Don Gordon

Don Gordon (1902-1989) was an American poet who made his name in the 1930s as an outspoken political poet. 

Gordon stopped writing poetry during periods of his life, resuming later in life. His poetry writing was punctuated by long periods of political activism and the need to earn a living as Gordon was blacklisted from employment during the 1950's because of his political views and actions.

From the 1920's Gordon worked in the film industry and was active in labour organizing and political campaigning.  He was called before the Un-American Activities Committee of the U.S. House or Representatives in September, 1951. Due to his openly communist views and his reluctance to give the committee names of fellow radical writers, Gordon was blacklisted from employment in the film industry. He devoted his time to writing poems suffused with themes of political activism, despite the difficulty of finding a wide audience for them.

For an informative article on Don Gordon read this piece from the excellent poetry (and literature) blog A Burning Patience.

From the poem Light (included in The Sea of Tranquility," 1989.)

Born in the galaxy of despair,
It will come without a name

Unless it is the star of compassion,

Or tenderness,

One beast to another.

It has to fall a timeless distance:

We need eons to prepare for it

After this savage childhood.

The hostile eye, unable to bear

That incandescence,

Will close in the dark and the dying

Of the angry mind.

It will be in us and around us

Like air and water,

Like a great calm,

Like the embrace

Of the father and mother of the sun

The poem Defoliation is from the mid 70's and was written in the context of the Vietnam War.

by Don Gordon

The bones of defoliated trees 
From some deep marrow 
Are growing leaves again 
In that country. 

The water buffalo will not graze
 Under the sick branch,
 Or the young men move like panthers,
 Or ever the lovely psychotic women
 Smile upon them. 

Nature repairs her wounds 
With angry scar tissue. 
She does not replace arms or eyes
 Or belief in men, or innocence, 
Or immanence of deities
 From east or west
 Or in the star clusters. 
She has done penance
 For the acts of felons
 By the leafless and the bloodless dying 
of the trees. 
Now she tries to live with her grief:Replaced; ashen; scant; fruitless
 for a generation.

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