Friday, February 27, 2009

To Gerald Stern, RE: Lucky Life

What can I say to you that you don't already know? I envy the 50 years you had to yourself before publishing, your years in Paris with Jack Gilbert (Of all the romantic friendships in the world in all the romantic times, I might choose this one over all of them), and I envy your age, as you, I'm sure, envy mine. "Lucky Life" is so far--and by far--my favorite book of yours. That plain-spokenness of yours, made out of pure Anglo-Saxon as if you'd translated the English into German without our knowing it, is at its height. I love all the names of flowers and animals, the attention paid to the non-human, the fierce sense of justice, particularly in the name of the weak and the small, the greater sense of the cyclical nature of things perhaps gained from having spent so much time walking in circles, taking note of whatever you passed by, and the humor:

…I sat there
discussing the simple pleasures, beekeeping
and massage, poker and ice-cream making,
as well as the more serious matters
such as divorce and bladder infection…

I don't want to pick favorites but "Four Sad Poems on the Delaware" was the one that first sucked me into the book, and the last poem, "Something New" made me glad that I still have so much your work ahead of me, even if the majority of it is behind you. Can we play poker sometime?

While I have been flooding myself with black coffee

More and more I go into the dark
sighing for what I leave behind me
instead of caring for what lies ahead.

If I grow a little arrogan, or a little sleepy,
it is because of the stone I am lying under
and the river I always drag around behind me.

Dear waves, what will you do for me this year?

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