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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Edward Dorn: If it should ever come

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Willows in Giverny: Claude Monet, 1886, oil on canvas, 74 x 93 cm (Konstmuseum, Gothenburg)
 
And we are all there together
time will wave as willows do
and adios will be truly, yes,
 
      laughing at what is forgotten
and talking of what's new
admiring the roses you brought.
How sad.
 
You didn't know you were at the end
thought it was your bright pear
the earth, yes
 
another affair to have been kept
and gazed back on
when you had slept
to have been stored
as a squirrel will a nut, and half
forgotten,
there were so many, many
from the newly fallen.

Edward Dorn (1929-1999): If It Should Ever Come, from The Newly Fallen (1961)




Remnant of the tallgrass prairie which once flourished in the northeast corner of Kansas is seen overlooking the Missouri River from a bluff near White Cloud and Troy, Kansas, in Doniphan County. This area of the state Is unique because it contains the only hardwood forest in Kansas in addition to tallgrass prairie: photo by Patricia D. Duncan (1932-) for the Environmental Protection Agency project Documerica, September 1975 (U.S. National Archives)


Flocks of migrating Blue Geese and Snow Geese Stop at the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City, Missouri, at the northwest corner of the state: photo by Patricia D. Duncan (1932-) for the Environmental Protection Agency project Documerica, September 1975 (U.S. National Archives)


Closeup of tall grasses being taken over by forest and sumac, near White Cloud and Troy in northeastern Kansas. A wave of pioneers cleared the native grasses and planted crops in the fertile soil. As a result only isolated patches of native tallgrass prairie survive: photo by Patricia D. Duncan (1932-) for the Environmental Protection Agency project Documerica, October 1974 (U.S. National Archives)


Rusted iron hand pump on land which used to be covered by tallgrass prairie in Johnson County, Kansas, near Kansas City. The wave of pioneer farmers cleared the native grasses and planted crops in the fertile soil. As a result only isolated patches of native tallgrass prairie survive: photo by Patricia D. Duncan (1932-) for the Environmental Protection Agency project Documerica, September 1975 (U.S. National Archives)


Abandoned house and rusted iron hand pump on land which used to be covered by tallgrass prairie in Johnson County, Kansas, near Kansas City. The wave of pioneer farmers cleared the native grasses and planted crops in the fertile soil. As a result only isolated patches of native tallgrass prairie survive: photo by Patricia D. Duncan (1932-) for the Environmental Protection Agency project Documerica, September 1974 (U.S. National Archives)


A prairie cemetery in Wabaunsee County, Kansas, near Manhattan, in the heart of the Flint Hills region. Cemeteries are very good places to find the original plants of the tallgrass prairie: photo by Patricia D. Duncan (1932-) for the Environmental Protection Agency project Documerica, January 1975 (U.S. National Archives)


A prairie cemetery with tall grass growing along the fence in Wabaunsee County Kansas, near Manhattan, in the heart of the Flint Hills region: photo by Patricia D. Duncan (1932-) for the Environmental Protection Agency project Documerica, January 1975 (U.S. National Archives)

9 comments:

TC said...

Edward Dorn grew up in central Illinois, in farm country at the margins of shortgrass prairie.

Patricia D. Duncan, who took the photos below the poem -- an elegy for the vanishing tallgrass prairie -- was instrumental in creating the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas. She also published a book of writings and photographs: Tallgrass Prairie: The Inland Sea.

manik sharma said...

Tom,

Well there must be the 1%ers in them squirrels as well, with a whole lot of nuts hidden somewhere. Love the photographs, although you've got to, just got to love these as well. Especially, the 3rd from last.

Be the BQE said...

Tom,
A beautiful poem and somehow a harsh one, as life is harsh to all our delusions. The prairie photographs by Duncan are a lovely setting for the poem.
-David

kent said...

Wow, he was good.

Sandra said...

beautiful!

Hazen said...

How beautiful Dorn is this morning, and Patricia Duncan’s photos also. They’re like autumn, changing colors as they submit to time. They’ll be gone too one day. An elegy seems apt . . . for the tall-grass prairie and the people who passed across it in the act of doing something that had meaning for them, carrying what they thought were roses. Time and the tall-grass and the willows and the people, all wave adios.

TC said...

Many thanks for lovely comments, helping to illuminate a terrific poem that seems to take on new amplitude of application with time. One of Ed's best -- possibly THE best. Sadly the early lyric work, much of it elegiac like this piece, and tinged with if not indeed centering upon that somewhat harsh, delusion-killing childhood and youth spent in the great obscurity of that empty prairie, has been often overlooked in the academic rush to approve the later work, which moves away from the common perspective so palpable here into areas quite remote from it -- suggesting perhaps some cleft or rift between production occurring within the straitened circumstance of working and living in impoverished conditions, and production occurring within (or, perhaps more accurately, thanks to) the obviously more conducive circumstance of working and living in the considerably less materially vulnerable if also considerably more spiritually arid milieux of international academia.

"If it should ever come", in any case, was not writ on the prairie, but in Santa Fe in 1959, during a brief stop on the itinerant migrations of Dorn and his small first-family clan though the West, in the time when he was virtually unknown as a writer, while AmPo remained dominated, as now, by the usual hollow cast of profs and props.

The best work, one can't help concluding, has always been and is now more than ever being done well out of range of those ample, grey, soul-grinding institutional auspices.

Marcia said...

Tom, This is a day late, but what a beautiful way it was to start the day yesterday with this moving poem from Dorn; the introductory Monet with willows; and the wonderful photos of Patricia Duncan. Thank you.

TC said...

Thanks very much, Marcia. The Duncan photos seemed a natural match, here. Particularly happy you've mentioned the Monet, though; that seemed going out on a limb a bit, maybe -- but now, not so much.