STRONG IS YOUR HOLD
Last night I bought Galway Kinnell’s latest collection of poems, “Strong is Your Hold”. It was a nostalgic little thing with lots of worms and lots of nature imagery and lots of little references to the recurring character “Maud” from “The Book of Nightmares”.
Now you could say I am a Galway Kinnell freak. I’ve read all his early work and all his “best” work and I’ve read his interviews and now I’ve read his most recent collection. You won’t find too many people reading modern poets with such obsessive gusto. Maybe after these poet suckers are dead, people might read their whole collections… but certainly not while they’re still kicking. and even if some poets are read deeply and fully while they’re still kickin’, it’s probably because it’s their mother or friend or rival, or they only have 4 or 5 books or something.
Galway has 10. Plus translation projects plus other stuff. The guy is prolific. He is 86 and still churning out dang poems like ticker tape.
I am a freak for reading it all.
Galway has many phases and many differing, various, semi-experimental periods in structuring and material. He is not a one trick pony kinda poet who keeps making the trick over and over with adjustments and honing and new angles and stuff like that. The man GETS BORED WITH HIMSELF and does something new with each collection…though central themes and characters carry through the entire body of his work. If you’re gonna write ten books of poetry I suppose that’s the way you have to do it.
His origins are in formalism…but his early formal poems don’t impress me much. You could say this latest collection, “Strong is Your Hold”, is perfect and a perfecting of his craft– but I think it’s lost a whole lot of UNGHGFHSHFKSDHFSKDJ! crazyclusterfuck slap to the face wrenching heart gouging fuck all! GROSS and HIDEOUS truth is BEAUTY.
It’s just too darn elegant.
I find it boring. And I tried. I really tried. I read it twice. and I drank two gin and tonics– but no, it still did not come alive.
ABOUT nature poems, KINNELL himself gives the following advice, “a nature poem has to have some city in it”. And you know what? “Strong is Your Hold” DOES have come CITY in it, but the most politically correct, methodically designed city I’ve ever known. No bloody good.
I didn’t want to buy another Kinnell collection…because I think I’ve over-loaded this year (and also, nothing can beat THE BOOK OF NIGHTMARES) but it’s because my local book store did not have any Frank Bidart or William Matthews. CRY! CRY! CRY!
Anyway, here are some excerpts from the Frank Bidart/Pearl London interview I read the other night,
BIDART: No sensibility is going to see into everything… There are inherent contradictions within human feeling. There are contradictions between what we promise and what we can perform. We both love and hate our parents, and it’s difficult to accept that because we would like only to love them, and they certainly want us only to love them.
People fail each other. People do not do what they want to do for each other, because we constantly feel contradictions. On the one hand, we want to be a good husband; on the other hand, someone else in us says, “But you have the injunction to fulfill yourself.” Sometimes fulfilling yourself and being a good husband–you cannot do both. And we feel pain at the pain we inflict, so human beings feel remorse in relation to each other.
LONDON: you say, “To SUVIVE, I HAD TO KILL HER INSIDE ME.” The question comes up of forgiveness in that poem.
BIDART: Right. Absolutely.
LONDON: And what is forgiveness? It seems to me that forgiveness has to be– here you’ve been telling us that you left prayer and came to insight. Forgiveness is a large portion of insight.
BIDART: Should proceed from insight. Right.
LONDON: A great deal of it. It also assumes compassion. So if… let me put it this way: if the compassion and the insight are being deepened in you, then you are not being erased; you are being, if anything, enriched. And why would that forgiveness mean erasure?
BIDART: You are supposed to have gotten over the anger. People sometimes use forgiveness as a weapon, you know. There’s a wonderful line in Lowell, “Christ our only king without a sword, who turned the word forgiveness to a sword.”