Aug 11, 2011

"Lastness" by Galway Kinnell : The Poetry Foundation

Lastness by Galway Kinnell : The Poetry Foundation

“If you can’t catch the bird flying at you, don’t bother getting him at all.”  I’m sure there’s a purist photographer out there somewhere who would say that, but I’ve decided I’m lucky to have caught these Canada Geese in any fashion.  I’m even telling myself that there’s something interesting in the attitude of the flying pair contrasted to their floating cousin. Neither group is interested in me; it’s all about my appreciation of them, heedless birds in a green world.

As for poems, I was looking for something about a mockingbird to connect to yesterday’s little frolic. What I came across instead is my first experience with Galway Kinnell’s poem, “Lastness.”  It’s an unlikely comparison of a bear and a newborn son, both negotiating the world in which they find themselves, both with their black, glistening mammalian hair—and all that compared, in turn,  to the grasslands and ferns of a newborn planet. It feels a little like my appreciation of the geese—unlikely, beyond logic, and stunning for the human observer.  

I’m sure one could argue that Kinnell’s conceit is too much, a bridge too far in stretching figurative language and in thinking about the likenesses among dissimilar entities.  For now, however, I’m good with it, happy to be shocked again by what the human mind is able and lucky enough to stumble onto, perceive, and guess about. If validity is a question, it seems a job for some ill-tempered cousin from the wrong side of the tracks.

I’m interested too in the way Kinnell’s animal steps out of himself in the first stanza. About both bear and human speaker, we can ask who is seeing what, and how, and on whose terms? By what unconscious way of perceiving?  Is it trickery? Magic? Mysticism?

Thanks again to The Poetry Foundation for discovering these poems before I did and offering them to us all. In case I don’t get to it soon, another poem somewhat along these lines is Meghan O’Rourke’s “Inventing a Horse.” The voice and language are nothing like Kinnell’s, but both poems intrigue me as they find themselves wondering about the mind of an animal, much in the vein of the movie Buck, which was discussed here on July 16.
Inventing a Horse by Meghan O'Rourke : The Poetry Foundation

Lastness by Galway Kinnell : The Poetry Foundation



Hannah Stephenson said...

Oh, wow!! I love that Meghan O'Rourke poem---thanks for introducing me to her work.

Thanks also for your thoughtful comments on my poems--looking forward to following your blog.

Rune Eide said...

Let the ornithologists do it their way - you do it your way.

BTW, the poem gave me a taste of Scotland, even though there are no bears there. Funny.

Banjo52 said...

Hannah, welcome. I liked a lot in O'Rourke's first book. Not sure if she's followed up. Is she still poetry co-editor of The Paris Review?

RuneE, thanks. Who knows if I'm rationalizing, but I really do like the sort of off-balance composition in the second photo. No bears in Scotland? I'd never have guessed that. Scotland reminds me a bit (from photos) of our Appalachian Mountains, which do have bears.

Anonymous said...

"For now, however, I’m good with it, happy to be shocked again by what the human mind is able and lucky enough to stumble onto, perceive, and guess about."

I like this, and agree. Personally, I stumble into rather than onto, but anything that makes us stop and notice.

Birdman said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm checking them out now.

Brenda's Arizona said...

If you don't the photo, you won't know how good it would have been. Do you think the bird always wants to be shot head on? Hmmm.

Love the birthing stanzas. They struck me... as joy.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Of course the last stanza is killer perfect, but the name Sancho Fergus is what stopped me. Have you ever put together names that made you laugh? made you say, thats what I'm going to name my next (insert noun here) Mr V likes Judy Flesh. Mine is Conchita Peterson

Anonymous said...

PA, I like Paige Gonzalez.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind which way they fly. I have set in the backyard waiting and watching for the morning fly over of hawks and got them coming right at me and from the sides and bottoms as they passed over. That took a long time and days to just see them coming and happen to be there ready to take their pictures. I guess it is called, "Preplanning."

Banjo52 said...

AH, thanks. So much of the good stuff is serendipity.

Brenda, probably not the birds, but some serious photographers? Yep, I think so.

PA, you psychically stole from me! A young thang with sparkles on her bosom just talked me into more expensive glasses than I'd planned on. I think of her as Conchita Fagioli. Is that what you mean?

Abe, not to mention the patient, or even Zen, approach . . . . I was reminded of that as I chose NOT to wait for a flyover that might make a better shot.

On the other hand, I continue to like the birds' uninterested, asymmetrical positions in the second shot.

Banjo52 said...

PA, she said she was born in Sicily . . .

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