Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The poetry of Stanley Kunitz

"That pack of scoundrels
stumbling through the gate
as the order of the state"

       The System
        Stanley Kunitz

Stanley Kunitzs's poetry has appeared before on this blog (here). I just love his work.

 The Testing Tree
Stanley Kunitz

In a murderous time
    the heart breaks and breaks
     and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
    through dark and deeper dark
     and not turn.
I am looking for the trail.
    where is my testing tree
     Give me back my stones.
The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006) is among the US's most acclaimed poets, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his poetry.  Kunitz wrote poetry for over 80 years and until his death, aged 100, he was active as a poet, writer, activist and mentor to young poets.

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