Wednesday, February 21, 2018

reading Le Guin

One peculiar, and not really justifiable, effect on me of Ursula K. Le Guin's death is that it took this freezing of her life work (except for what may come out posthumously, of course) to nudge me into looking over her list of books to see what I was missing.

Among the few was her last poetry collection, Late in the Day (PM Press, 2016). This just arrived. It begins with the text of a prose talk offering poetry as a way for people to learn to live wakefully with the environment around them: not just animals, but plants and inanimate things. This is not a new thought for Le Guin: her essay collection Cheek by Jowl (2009) concerns awareness of animals, and her earlier collection Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences (1987) includes stories and poems not just about animals but about plants and rocks. (Remember "The Direction of the Road," a story old even then [1974], that remarkable tree's perspective on the world?)

Reading the new poems, I am most struck by the close contemplation of physical objects, especially the one on two kitchen spoons, one new and one old. Feeling these poems seep into me, I find myself dropping into something possibly resembling free verse - I don't know if this works; I've never written in this form before - about a physical object that came into my awareness while I was sitting on the living room couch reading the book.


Someone will be hungry tonight.

For their breakfast has come out
by the way it went in
onto the carpet.

Warm and dun-colored
it nestles as I scoop it
into the paper towels.

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