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Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Edward Dorn: Dark Ceiling

Image, Source: digital file from original neg. 

Largest lead mine in the world surrounded by dead trees. Kellogg, Idaho: photo by Arthur Rothstein, July 1936


Broad black scar the valley is
and sunday is
where the wide arc
..the small lights of homes come on
in that trough.

......Burnish my heart
......with this mark

Furnish my soul with the hope
Far away and by a river
In the darkness of a walnut stand.

no home, no back.

All is this wrong key, the lark
......but his voice trails off
in the snow. He has not
brought his meadow.
The starling's
..insolent whistle
is the truth here -- dark smoke

drifts in from the morning fertilizer factory
and men there return lamely
to work, their disputes not settled.

Edward Dorn: Dark Ceiling, from Geography (1965)

Image, Source: digital file from original neg.

Sugar beet factory (Amalgamated Sugar Company) along Snake River. Nyssa, Malheur County, Oregon, a one factory town: photo by Dorothea Lange, October 1939

Image, Source: intermediary roll film
Sugar beet factory along Snake River. Nyssa, Malheur County, Oregon: photo by Russell Lee, November 1941

Photos from Farm Security Administration
Collection, Library of Congress


TC said...

In case anyone may be interested, at the time this poem was writ Edward Dorn was living not far from a fertilizer plant (Simplot) in Idaho.

TC said...

... and that walnut stand by a river of which he speaks would have been in rural Illinois, where he grew up.

Anonymous said...

The dark smoke is all around, I'm afraid. Unfortunately, the ones whose voices matter least in these things, at least officially, are the ones most ravaged by being choked.

Wooden Boy said...

Susan referred to Dorn as a poetry geographer; he knows what place (and displacement) means. Thanks for the notes, TC. I, for one, am interested.

"There/ is/no home, no back" That's something that has to be said.

I love the starlings' insolence. It's wonderful to watch those jewelled beasts squabbling in our city centre with that smart disdain for all the inhuman human business.

This poem is the truth for us here.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Olympic Moments

My father has no backbone no spine.
He sits on the couch pressing his luck.
During the Olympics he scratched his head
with a wooden spoon now and then—
grunted and complained about his pain.
The grey cat Auden curls next to him
wormy and adoring. He scolds Auden, shush, shush,
the Olympics. On right now are the personal stories
about the figure skaters. Showing the women
beyond the rink. Beyond the clean edges
they make with their skates.
Past their unfortunate falls.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

"There/is/no home, no back."

These lines speak of the deep singularity of the poet searching and living in the bitter sweetness of finding and not finding, encountering and turning up items almost by accident fool/wise genius shaman who has passed the torch to his deputy in charge here. (His name is Tom Clark) What will he show us that is familiar and surprising at the same time? I think it is this here. This home here.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Ed Dorn

A small word


get a kick
out of it

across the land
scape the West

kick the can
horrible bucket

right to say
fuck it

someone said
the path of genius

so lonely
not friend

but student

that wanting
waiting for

more poetry
responsible burdens

terrible comfort
to go find a poem

make one

Susan Kay Anderson said...

"Burnish my heart"

"Furnish my soul with the hope"

Make marks
about the Snake
the sugar
from the beets
lead out of
dry hills
in Idaho

dead trees surrounding
Oregon's state bird
should be
to the poet
whose ears
twist and turn
by the sound


too much emotion

larry white said...

Blonde teens embrace
on the minimalest porch
caress careless
of the passerby.

Their sweet public necking
marks the approaching
end of summer,
start of school.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

"Goodbye to the Illinois"

How would it be
stared at for a year
by your mother--

what this means
you across the field

dullness lurking
in all the expected
places all around

they said goodbye
before you were ready

Susan Kay Anderson said...

I didn't have to try too impossibly hard
to be Teacher's Pet
just raised my hand
when Ed Dorn asked if anyone
had heard of
or even read some
Richard Brautigan

later I was to describe
to everyone in class
the definition of midden

my voice, thawing
it is a pile of trash
I said
picturing white clam shells
piles and piles of them
on the Oregon Coast

and my teacher waited
intense charisma
in every word gesture look
I did not have
at the moment
thought of Eugene
Black Tartarian Cherry treee
there lovingly held up
with supports
in the Rose Garden
by the river
and how Eugene
is a great place
to walk around
after awhile
you don't notice
your wet feet

TC said...

The wonderful bits about the birds to which WB draws our attention reflect a long period of looking and in-dwelling for this poet.

Dorn was a chorological -- or to use the term of his master in the study of the morphology of landscape, the geographer Carl O. Sauer, "areal" -- writer. The lonesome or apart quality in his nature which informs his lyric voice found its always tentative, always uncertain locations in the scattered Western places through which he passed as an itinerant in his first decade as a poet. In these travels he became a self-taught person of learning, largely thanks to small town libraries (he has a fascinating essay in which he recounts "Libraries I Have Known"). One of the writers he learned to deeply admire in these years was the great naturalist W.H. Hudson. Reading Hudson when he was a struggling marginal farm laborer in Burlington, Washington in the 1950s led him to inspect the skies, to find auguries and omens in the passages of birds, an ancient poetic concentration. One of his finest prose writings, and perhaps the most poetic of all his evocations of space, is the 1958 essay , "Notes from the Fields: Skagit Valley".

It begins:

"The meadow larks and the crows don't exist for each other. The lark is apparently always in flight. There is no question that the meadow lark is the loveliest of flying things... What flying! The sheer exactitude of flying complexly and exhaustively, on the air, at that slight height, to the near ground..."

Dorn's areal projections of distance in this period were often as if lifted on the wings of birds.

larry white said...

They whirr. And the birds remain to testify.

larry white said...

Living in meadow lark country the last twenty years, I appreciate. My backyard is in town, though, so I mostly see lots of vultures, all the yard birds, and occasional hawks. Bats and hummingbirds. Prairie paradise.



Got up yesterday to paddle in channel in the dark at 5AM before flying to New York to see Oona & new baby, something in ED's poem resonates --

"black scar

. . .

no home, no back."


grey blackness of fog against invisible
ridge, black shape of black pine branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

there that becomes presence
of which it, and that

things, by abstracting form,
as much as “pictorial”

grey white fog against invisible ridge,
pelicans gliding across toward horizon

Unknown said...

What Dorn and I shared and share...There was a Walnut Grove on the Greenview Farm, Greenview Illinois. My grandfather's favorite farm. Stands of Walnut among the ahead of their time round chicken coops. The coops lasting longer than the trees, which were "harvested" for use in making furniture. My childhood bed was made of Walnut.

Furnish my soul with hope. There's a Walnut grove and a chicken coop in my soul.

TC said...

Here's to walnut groves and exaltations of larks, then.

larry white said...

An exaltation, then....and now.

Mom found the house.
Dad, the harvest.
Montgomery County, Maryland,
west of Swain's Lock on the C&O Canal,
1953-55. New transplants
from Chester and Paoli, Pennsylvania,
in our eastward migration, Dad's
job search. Born in Springfield, Illinois,
at 16 with the Illinois Central Railroad
in Chicago, somehow he also knew black walnuts.
At our River Road rental he found them,
loved the smell and stain,
fun at the fireplace hammering hard black nuts
on a piece of rail, using ornate pickers
to tease near perfect meats from shell
for instant munching and Mom's recipes,
never bettered or repeated.

Always remembered in the woodshop where
in my 30s and 40s I worked walnut.
Love its smell. Moved west
to Iowa, Dad 20 years gone.
Got a job on a walnut farm, planting
trees and herbs and grasses.
Walnuts grow in my yard but I seldom
harvest them the way some Amish do.
Next year I might,
if there's nothing else to do.

The chicken coop was southeast of Pulaski
on a semi-Amish farm
Its owners, a married couple
with grown children,
had bought it from an Amish family
who made the best blackberry pie.
They dressed and lived and farmed
in some ways Amish, though they weren't.
I saw their ad in Countryside
and drove to work as often as I could
on their 80, working horses,
talking Wendell Berry, Henri Nouwen and Dorothy Day,
looking after the cows and the chickens
for a start,
until they upped and moved to Illinois.