Too much I…

KinnellSometimes it seems to me that poets, especially American poets, got derailed by the confessional poems of Lowell and Plath, and there is just too much self-absorption. Of course, everything experienced is filtered through the lense of self, but a little perspective is the mark of a fine mind. Galway Kinnell gave a craft talk at Squaw Valley Community of Writers, in which he suggested taking the words “I” or “me” or the various forms of these out of your work.  And Sharon Olds, who was also there, wrote a beautiful poem about how she loved the I-beam I, “Take the I Out.”  But I did write for a year without an “I” poem.  It was a good exercise. And it’s hard to beat this poem, with no I in it:

Saint Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath
them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Galway Kinnell

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