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Saturday, August 3, 2019

A 20th Century Poetic Rebel

“Being a writer is like being a psychoanalyst, but you don't get any patients.” – Al Alvarez

Born in England Aug. 5, 1929, Alvarez is a poet, novelist, essayist and critic.  Among his two dozen best-selling books are his award-winning Poker:  Bets, Bluffs and Bad Beat and his 1962 poetry marvel, The New Poetry.  In it he championed American-style poetry over the British version, creating an uproar on both sides of the pond while placing his own writing firmly in the public eye.    For Saturday’s Poem, here is Alvarez’s,

A train was crying as the dawn came up
Uncanny, unreal, greyish. The birds began,
Before the humans the birds were harshly twittering,
Crying on all sides, rustling and peopling the air
With outcry, like a river suddenly heard,
A heavy, persistent down-calling. So the birds
Were shaking their song out, wrenching and spilling it
Out of the roots of the heart painfully singing.

Out of the roots of the heart painfully twisting
The cold comes blank as the dawn over our bed
Where you lie with your body away, your face to the wall.
Should I get up, go out and leave you asleep
Before the business of the day has taken us,
Creak down the stairs and out? But to what purpose?
The birds will lose their song in the dull street,
The lorries roll and life goes out of us.

Dying. With so much hate behind the tongue,
The nerves grate but the mouth rests surly and slow,
And action turns on itself. A door bangs shut
And God knows now who in the shadows lurks.
My stomach twists to see your passive hands,
Your tensed and quiet forehead, beating throat.
But much good it would do to be up and quit of the lot.

For the beautiful summer is lost and lost the birds,
The great and moving air, the swaying elms
And all the confilsing paraphernalia of love.
We are left to ourselves in our grey untender rooms,
Sleeping the nights apart in the same bed,
Divided by fears and loss and ignorance.
The dawn comes up and the birds sing to themselves.

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