Last month, I experienced the acclaimed American poet, Anne Waldman, perform a series of her poems, along with her band, at the Corrala de Santiago, in Granada, Spain. She is an electrifying presence, a flaming advocate for the vitality of poetry to keep open possibility in this time when the Powers are trying to shut resistance down, put a lid on opportunity, and turn the clock backward. Yes, we need to heed her poetry but also her prose—what she says poetry can do in our world. She’s a contemporary and necessarily disputatious voice, challenging the Powers and working keeping us awake.
This morning, I came across (again) a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. A poet from a previous age who, against various and sometimes not so subtle Victorian tyrannies, challenged the notion of a settled reality. In his poem, “The Grandeur of God,” Hopkins—gay when gay was much more dangerous than being gay is now (present Administration not withstanding)—pries us open with this grand, lyrical vision of Nature’s aliveness to Divine freedom, mystery, and the fluid nature of things.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
For an interpretation and reading by the Stanley Kunitz, tenth Poet Laureate of the United States, whom The Atlantic called “the venerable doyen of American poetry,” click below.