April 3, 2011

Poet for April 3, 2011 - Robert Penn Warren

After Mary Oliver's lovely poem about the swan yesterday, here's a follow-up poem to wrap up this weekend. From the famous odes to the skylark (Shelley) and the nightingale (Keats), to multiple references to birds in the Bard's work, to Mary Oliver's tributes to smockingbirds, swans and geese, to today's poem by Robert Penn Warren celebrating the hawk, poetry seems to have paid tribute to birds over the years in many different ways. I suppose, one could say there is an element of birds that is innately inspirational to poetry -- helping us take flights of fancy and letting our imaginations soar over new landscapes (and mindscapes) and dare I say, liberating us from the confines of the ordinary and the mundane.
The poets are thus liberating gods. The ancient British bards had for the title of their order, "Those who are free throughout the world." They are free, and they make free. An imaginative book renders us much more service at first, by stimulating us through its tropes, than afterward, when we arrive at the precise sense of the author. I think nothing is of any value in books, excepting the transcendental and extraordinary. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Poet).
Robert Penn Warren (Born: April 24 1905, Guthrie, KY - Died: September 15 1989, Stratton, VT). Trivia: He is the only person to have won Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and poetry, winning the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for his novel All the King's Men and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1958 & 1979.

Onto today's poem.... 

Evening Hawk   
by Robert Penn Warren

From plane of light to plane, wings dipping through
Geometries and orchids that the sunset builds,
Out of the peak's black angularity of shadow, riding
The last tumultuous avalanche of
Light above pines and the guttural gorge,
The hawk comes.
               His wing
Scythes down another day, his motion
Is that of the honed steel-edge, we hear
The crashless fall of stalks of Time.

The head of each stalk is heavy with the gold of our error.

Look!  Look!  he is climbing the last light
Who knows neither Time nor error, and under
Whose eye, unforgiving, the world, unforgiven, swings
Into shadow.

          Long now,
The last thrush is still, the last bat
Now cruises in his sharp hieroglyphics.  His wisdom
Is ancient, too, and immense.  The star
Is steady, like Plato, over the mountain.

If there were no wind we might, we think, hear
The earth grind on its axis, or history
Drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.

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