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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Carved through words for posterity

“Your work is carved out of agony as a statue is carved out of marble.”  Louise Bogan

Bogan, a native of Maine, was born on this date in 1897, and made history when she was appointed the fourth Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress in 1945 – the first woman in the role. 

As poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine for nearly 40 years, she played a major role in shaping mainstream poetic sensibilities of the mid-20th Century.

Her works were widely published in most mainstream and arts magazines, often highly praised by critics and fellow writers alike, and she was honored by the American Academy of Poets for her lifetime efforts.  For Saturday’s Poem, here is Louise Bogan’s

           Song for the Last Act
Now that I have your face by heart, I look
Less at its features than its darkening frame
Where quince and melon, yellow as young flame,
Lie with quilled dahlias and the shepherd's crook.
Beyond, a garden, There, in insolent ease
The lead and marble figures watch the show
Of yet another summer loath to go
Although the scythes hang in the apple trees.

Now that I have your face by heart, I look.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read
In the black chords upon a dulling page
Music that is not meant for music's cage,
Whose emblems mix with words that shake and bleed.
The staves are shuttled over with a stark
Unprinted silence. In a double dream
I must spell out the storm, the running stream.
The beat's too swift. The notes shift in the dark.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see
The wharves with their great ships and architraves;
The rigging and the cargo and the slaves
On a strange beach under a broken sky.
O not departure, but a voyage done!
The bales stand on the stone; the anchor weeps
Its red rust downward, and the long vine creeps
Beside the salt herb, in the lengthening sun.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see.

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