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Grackles, Goodbye -- Robert Penn Warren

Guest poem submitted by Matt Chanoff:
(Poem #968) Grackles, Goodbye
 Black of grackles glints purple as, wheeling in sun-glare,
 The flock splays away to pepper the blueness of distance.
 Soon they are lost in the tracklessness of air.
 I watch them go. I stand in my trance.

 Another year gone. In trance of realization,
 I remember once seeing a first fall leaf, flame-red, release
 Bough-grip, and seek, through gold light of the season's sun,
 Black gloss of a mountain pool, and there drift in peace.

 Another year gone. And once my mother's hand
 Held mine while I kicked the piled yellow leaves on the lawn
 And laughed, not knowing some yellow-leaf season I'd stand
 And see the hole filled. How they spread their obscene fake lawn.

 Who needs the undertaker's sick lie
 Flung thus in the teeth of Time, and the earth's spin and tilt?
 What kind of fool would promote that kind of lie?
 Even sunrise and sunset convict the half-wit of guilt.

 Grackles, goodbye! The sky will be vacant and lonely
 Till again I hear your horde's rusty creak high above,
 Confirming the year's turn and the fact that only, only,
 In the name of Death do we learn the true name of Love.
-- Robert Penn Warren
Here's [another] piece about crows [1]. It's considerably more verbose, but
achieves a kind of Haiku-ish compression and regard for nature in the first
two stanzas. Warren looses it in stanza four, as far as I'm concerned, but
regains coherence by the end.


[1] The first one was a haiku by Basho, Poem #802 on the Minstrels.


Robert Penn Warren was born in Guthrie, Todd County, Kentucky, on April 24,
1905. He was the oldest of three children; others being Mary, the middle
child,  and Thomas, the youngest. His parents were Robert Franklin Warren, a
proprietor and banker, and Anna Ruth Penn Warren, a schoolteacher. In the
fall of 1911 he entered the Guthrie School from which he graduated at age
15. He did not then enter college as his mother felt he was too young and
went instead, in September, 1920, to Clarksville High School, Clarksville,
Montgomery County, Tennessee, graduating after the full school year. In the
spring of 1921 he suffered an injury to his left eye from a rock throwing
incident perpetrated by his younger brother. The injury eventually led to
removal of the eye. During the summer of 1921, he spent six weeks in
Citizens Military Training Corp, Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he published his
first poem, "Prophecy", in The Messkit. He earlier had obtained an
appointment to the United States Naval Academy but because of the eye the
appointment was can he entered Vanderbilt
University at age 16.

While at Vanderbilt he came under the tutelage of some of the foremost
teachers in literature such as Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom, and Andrew
Lytle.  Also he became involved with two groups; the Fugitives and the
Agrarians. In the summer of 1925 he graduated from Vanderbilt summa cum
laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and Founder's Medalist. Then, in August, he entered
the University of California as a graduate student and teaching assistant.
Here he met his first wife, Emma "Cinina" Brescia. In 1927 he received his
M.A. from University of California and, in the fall, entered Yale University
on fellowship. In October, 1928 he entered New College at Oxford as a Rhodes
Scholar receiving his B.Litt. in the spring of 1930.

He secretly married Emma Brescia in the summer of 1929, a marriage that was
to end on June 28, 1951.On December 7, 1952, he married Eleanor Clark. This
marriage produced two children, Rosanna Phelps Warren and Gabriel Penn

Warren was a poet, critic, novelist, and teacher. He taught at Vanderbilt
University, Nashville, Tennessee, Southwestern College, Memphis, Tennessee,
University of Minnesota, Yale University, and Louisiana State University.
While at LSU he founded and edited, along with Cleanth Brooks and Charles W.
Pipkin, the literary quarterly, The Southern Review. As a poet, he was
appointed the nation's first Poet Laureate, February 26, 1986. He published
sixteen volumes of poetry and two---Promises: Poems, 1954-1956 and Now and
Then: Poems, 1976-1978---won Pulitzer Prizes. Warren published ten novels.
One novel, All the King's Men, won a Pulitzer Prize. Two novels, All the
King's Men and Band of Angels were made into movies. In addition he
published a book of short stories, two selections of critical essays, a
biography, three historical essays, a study of  Melville, a critical book on
Dreiser, a study of Whittier, and two studies of race relations in America.
As of this writing, he is the only author to have won the Pulitzer for both
fiction and poetry. Other honors include the Bolingen Prize, National Medal
for Literature, and Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Warren's first published novel was Night Rider, Houghton, (1939) and was
about the tobacco war (1905-1908) between independent tobacco growers in
Kentucky and large tobacco companies. His last published novel was A Place
to Come To, Random House, (1977) which is, to a certain extent,
autobiographical. Along with Cleanth Brooks he collaborated in writing the
text books, Understanding Poetry, Holt, (1938), 4th edition, (1976) and
Understanding Fiction, Crofts, (1943), 2nd Edition, Appleton-Century-Crofts,
(1959). He was one of the leading representatives of the New Criticism and
these works helped revolutionize the teaching of literature by bringing the
New Criticism into general practice in America's college classrooms.

From the 1950's until his death September 15, 1989, from cancer, Warren
lived in Connecticut and at his summer home in Vermont. He is buried at
Stratton, Vermont, and, at his request, a memorial marker is situated in the
Warren family gravesite in Guthrie, Kentucky.


[Minstrels Links]

Sort of similar poems:
Poem #677, Villanelle  -- W. H. Auden
Poem #58, The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower  -- Dylan
Poem #138, Fern Hill  -- Dylan Thomas
Poem #225, Poem In October  -- Dylan Thomas
Poem #219, Full many a glorious morning (Sonnets XXXIII)  -- William
Poem #377, Loveliest of trees, the cherry now  -- A. E. Housman
Poem #545, The Moving Finger Writes; and, Having Writ -- Omar Khayyam
Poem #254, The North Ship  -- Philip Larkin
Poem #392, Good  -- R. S. Thomas

37 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Stryker Hip Recall Blog said...

I am a fan of haiku since I was a kid. Probably, I will always appreciate it just like this one above.

Even Robert Penn Warren experienced injuries he still manage to produce this beautiful piece. His story is very inspiring.

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descriptive essay said...

I remember once seeing a first fall leaf, flame-red, release
Bough-grip, and seek, through gold light of the season's sun,
Black gloss of a mountain pool, and there drift in peace love this part always makes me cry

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