Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

October 7, 2012

On Poetry: End of summer has own beauty

Stanley Kunitz became poet laureate of the U.S. when he was 95 years old. Explaining how he was able to keep writing rich, vivid poems into old age, he said, "If I hadn't had an urgent impulse, if the poem didn't seem to me terribly important, I never wanted to write it and didn't. And that's persisted."

This poem feels urgent. Not cheerful, but urgent. Like the coming of wind and cold. The speaker is admonished that right now, this night, the year is no longer in favor and is about to turn. Even the field is "disenchanted." All is desolate.

But there's an amazement in the speaker, and there is that blue breaking into blue, and the hawk, and the blazing roof. Pow! — all that pouring out as a sign that that part of his life is over.

Doors usually clang shut. We might have thought the door of summer would clang shut. But the door of the north, instead, clangs open. Birds, leaves, and snows are "ordered" forth like military forces. And the wind is "cruel." Why write a poem about a cruel wind and a rush of cold?

When I think about it, there's something wonderful as well as cruel about utter loss, utter change. It's the way of things. It puts an end to one thing, to make way for something else, something new.

I'd wanted summer to last just a few more days. I'd hoped to have a last swim this week. But I just can't make myself do it. The water's 60 degrees and falling. The wind the other day was ferocious, big waves on our little lake, and tree limbs whipping and breaking. It's the end, here, clearly. The end has its own beauty, its own intensity.

Did you notice that Kunitz's poem rhymes? Things come back around, changed.

Fleda Brown is professor emerita, University of Delaware, and past poet laureate of Delaware. For more of her work, and to see her website, go to www.fledabrown.com.

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