I’m Out of Here for Five Days

I’m taking off for five days of taking care of my nearly two year old grandson. When I did this last year, it turned out to be a hightlight for the year. So, I’m really looking forward to the next five days.

If it turns out like last year, though, I doubt that I will have much time to access a computer, much less spend time reading or contemplating what I might have to say.

That’s okay, living in the moment is where it really it is at, at least for five days

The Real Job

While sitting down and writing blog entries this week, I realized just how magical my undergraduate years at the University of Washington were. In four short years I was exposed to a variety of poets whose ideas have influenced me the rest of my life.

By my senior year, however, I was more than ready to move on with the rest of my life (if I had realized that Vietnam was next, I might have been less anxious to move on). Tired of working my way through college as a janitor, I just wanted to finish school and get a ãreal job,ä too young to realize that attaining "self-awareness" is life’s real job.

Of all the poetry teachers I had, Welsh poet Vernon Watkins, a guest professor for one quarter, may have been my favorite because his classes seemed like friendly discussions rather than lectures from above.

Amazingly, you could actually visit him during office hours and have a discussion with him without feeling that you were interrupting his day. For instance, after he questioned my interpretation of a line in Yeats’ "Crazy Jane Meets the Bishop," a personal favorite I had memorized years before, I went to talk to him in his office, and he not only raised my grade, he spent an hour talking about Yeatsâ poetry. That may have been my most memorable hour as an undergraduate.

Perhaps "Demands of the Poet" captures a little of the sensitivity and passion that Vernon Watkins conveyed in his classes.


Demands of the Poet

I set my heart against all lesser toil.
Speak to me now more closely than the birds.
That labour done, on which I spent my oil,
Avails me nothing till you test the words.

How much the beating pulse may hold the years
Yet write the athletic wisdom on the page
You alone say. You bring the authentic tears
Which recognize the moment without age.

No lesser vision gives me consolation.
Wealth is a barren waste, that spring forgot.
Art is the principle of all creation,
And there the desert is, where art is not.
Vernon Watkins in Affinities

It takes remarkable humility for a poet to feel that the reader, and not he himself, determines the success of the poem and that until the reader tests the truth of his words, the poem has no real use.

And, yet, the same poet sets a lofty goal for himself because he believes that only the artistâs creation can keep the world from being barren and sterile.

I like to think, at least, that my communion with artists and their works has made my own life less barren and sterile.

Further Down Memory Lane

Unless you keep practicing your meditation, the mind goes where it will. But that’s okay, too, because sometimes wanderings are more interesting than where you were originally headed, and certainly more interesting than the places the media would lead you.

If you follow this log, you will have noticed a nostalgic tendency the last few days. I didn’t start out that way, but has certainly gone that way. For me, at least, that somehow seems appropriate because that is what I have most loved about the internet since its early days. Jumping from link leads to some strange, but interesting, places like The Fruitlog – a British Eccentric or dle@pitas-zen,bukowski,fishing, hammering ants and staring at the sun-what else is there?…. You can’t expect much more from life.

Pulling out some of my oldest poetry books, I found one by Nelson Bentley, one of my favorite professors, the only one ever to give me the confidence to write my own poems. Perhaps because of this, I didnât appreciate his poems nearly as much as they deserved to be. I was doubly pleased, though, when I found a website devoted to his memory at Friends of Nelson

Re-reading Sea Lion Caves I was pleasantly surprised to find a poem about Cannon Beach, long my favorite place on the Oregon coast, long before it became the yuppie destination that it is today.

Cannon Beach

Who love these rocks have studied to endure.

The tall waves roar

And break their whitest on those basalt snags:

Foam mounts like wings

Out of a sound unchanged since Genesis.

The ocean heaves the weight of time ashore:
The rocks stand sheer.
White seafowl slowly skim immobile nests.
Fish blue with warts,
Eyes glazed by water, swim under the blue surface.

Where one black monolith makes immortal thrust
And waves smash most,
Light like a halo holds the primitive tip.
From cape to cape
That rigid word orders the surge of chaos.

Nelson Bentley from Sea Lion Caves

I doubt that I was ready for this poem when I read it in college, but today it seems to capture what I have most loved about the beach.

The roaring of the surf is the ultimate meditation, endlessly pulsing, the very sound of blood rushing through your veins, the blood of Gaia.

What better symbol of endurance than this "black monolith" that juts out into the water, the prow of our continent, withstanding the ravages of time .