First off, an apology, for in copying and pasting Erica Jong’s poem last week I got in such a hurry I left off the last stanza. Actually the most important one! You’d think after blogging for nearly two years (next month) I’d have learned to proof read, wouldn’t you??? So, although belated, here is the last verse of her poem. (I have also corrected it on last Friday’s post.)
Parable of the Four-Poster (last stanza)
Do they live unhappily ever after?
Do they undo their mistakes ever?
Who is the victim here?
Love is the victim.
Who is the villain?
Love that never dies.
(See also Touch Me, 10/9/15)
On July 29, 1905, Stanley Kunitz was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. He attended Harvard College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1926 and a master’s degree in 1927. He served in the Army in World War II, after a request for conscientious objector status was denied. Following the war, he began teaching, first at Bennington College in Vermont, and later at universities including Columbia, Yale, Princeton, Rutgers, and the University of Washington.
About his own work, Kunitz has said: “The poem comes in the form of a blessing—‘like rapture breaking on the mind,’ as I tried to phrase it in my youth. Through the years I have found this gift of poetry to be life-sustaining, life-enhancing, and absolutely unpredictable. Does one live, therefore, for the sake of poetry? No, the reverse is true: poetry is for the sake of the life.”
His honors include the Bollingen Prize, a Ford Foundation grant, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, Harvard’s Centennial Medal, the Levinson Prize, the Harriet Monroe Poetry Award, a senior fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Medal of the Arts, and the Shelley Memorial Award. He served for two years as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, was designated State Poet of New York, and a Chancellor Emeritus of the Academy of American Poets. In 2000 he was named United States Poet Laureate.
Kunitz was deeply committed to fostering community among artists, and was a founder of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Poets House in New York City. Together with his wife, the painter Elise Asher, he split his time between New York City and Provincetown, Massachusetts. He died at the age of 100 on May 14, 2006. (https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/stanley-kunitz)
I totally get this poem because after my mother passed away (18 months after my dad) and my sister, brother, and I were going through the house, we found a letter she had written to us a long time before hidden in the back of their 49th anniversary picture. To say it was enlightening would be an understatement. I can still feel my mind reeling…
My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time
and in a public park,
when I was waiting to be born.
She locked his name
in her deepest cabinet
and would not let him out,
though I could hear him thumping.
When I came down from the attic
with the pastel portrait in my hand
of a long-lipped stranger
with a brave moustache
and deep brown level eyes,
she ripped it into shreds
without a single word
and slapped me hard.
In my sixty-fourth year
I can feel my cheek
Picture Credit: writers-write-creative-blog.posthaven.com