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Poem of the week, month, year

June 3, 2012


You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.

You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely

If I’m lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawn’s first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep

If I’m lonely
it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning

–Adrienne Rich

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2012 3:09 am

    Isn’t that a lovely and brave poem? I do like Adrienne Rich very much. Somewhere else, she wrote this, which I feel fits in well with the above poem:

    There must be a place, there has come

    a time —

    where so many nerves are fusing —

    for a purely moral loneliness.

  2. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    June 4, 2012 9:40 am

    I feel a bit like a broken record, or a cliché, posting more Adrienne Rich (what’s next? Sylvia Plath?) but the fact is, they’re awfully good poems. Still as good now as when I first read and reread them as a lovesick, melodramatic teenager.

  3. June 4, 2012 9:48 am

    The bit about being the only one awake in the house is one of the loveliest things I’ve ever read. Thank you so much for introducing me to this poem.

  4. youngest wren of nine permalink
    June 4, 2012 11:23 am

    I like the “gift for burning”, very much. Fact is, though, that when I was a melodramatic teenager (or shortly thereafter), I happened across “The Brand-X Anthology of Poetry” which was funny enough that I read it cover to cover, and unfortunately I remember a lot of it to this day. Kids, don’t try this at home — it is fatal if your first exposure to Adrienne Rich (or Sylvia Plath, or Denise Levertov etc.) is a parody thereof. (I keep trying to bring this home to my kids who are huge “Key of Awesome” fans — Harry Potter is just never the same after you’ve seen “Harry Potter and the Steamy Slow Jam”. But do they listen?!)

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      June 4, 2012 11:48 am

      It’s true, it’s true! Adrienne Rich almost ruined HERSELF for me–I saw her read when I was in college, and found her “poetry voice” and pretensions almost intolerable. Luckily, I recovered. And then recovered from my recovery, if you know what I mean. Anyway, you can still love Sylvia Plath, even if you don’t love Plath-heads….or so a very good friend of mine, who has written books on confessional poetry and teaches Plath to undergraduates, has assured me. He ought to know…

  5. June 4, 2012 1:33 pm

    Oh, sweetie, we’re all lonely, but don’t forget that you aren’t alone. Not really. Not at all. Too many people love you.

  6. youngest wren of nine permalink
    June 5, 2012 4:27 am

    Ah, “poetry voice”… I remember, back in the days when my clock radio was set to “Morning Edition”, staggering out of bed (“Must turn this OFF!”) because there was Tess Gallagher, trailing, trailing, trailing away. I wonder if this particular mannerism has finally gone out of fashion, though? I have been happily listening to New Yorker poems via the iPad App, and most authors read quite well — it’s been a delight, really.
    I loved these lines from Anthony Lane’s review of Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” (lovely film, btw — everyone should see it). He compares Anderson’s films to the boxes of Joseph Cornell but he might just as well be talking about poetry: “formal troves of frippery, studded with nostalgic private jokes, that lodge inexplicably in the heart”. Yes.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      June 5, 2012 8:01 am

      Tess Gallagher had THE WORST POETRY VOICE. I absolutely adore Anthony Lane.

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