Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #1740) Covering Two Years
This nothingness that feeds upon itself: Pencils that turn to water in the hand, Parts of a sentence, hanging in the air, Thoughts breaking in the mind like glass, Blank sheets of paper that reflect the world Whitened the world that I was silenced by. There were two years of that. Slowly, Whatever splits, dissevers, cuts, cracks, ravels, or divides To bring me to that diet of corrossion, burned And flickered to its terminal. - Now in an older hand I write my name. Now with a voice grown unfamiliar, I speak to silences of altered rooms, Shaken by knowledge of recurrence and return.
A month ago, I'd never heard of Weldon Kees. Then Anthony Lane wrote an article about him in the New Yorker  and I went out and got Kees' collected poems from the library and before I knew it another poet had been added to my ever-growing list of American Greats (and to my order list at Amazon, sigh!). The truth is, Kees is not really one poet - he's two. The younger Kees is a clever enough poet, a product of his time, writing poems filled with wit and intelligence that impress you with their craft but don't necessarily move you. There are some beautiful images here, some truly skilled writing ("Distance upon distance, cloud on cloud, / Crayons of smoke that sketch blue sky / With gray appeals." - Two Cities; or check out, if you can a poem called Early Winter), his poems have an air of meticulous observation about them, of quiet detail which make them a rewarding read. But there's something disconnected about these poems, as if they do not really touch Kees' heart. Plus there's the Eliot influence which shows through clearly, and is certainly not compatible with Kees' own style - in trying to emulate his masters, Kees does himself a grave disservice. If you're a form buff though you might really enjoy these poems - Kees writes some of the most skilled sestinas I've ever read, and there are a couple of villanelles in there as well. But it's the later Kees that I truly fell in love with. There are glimpses of this side of Kees in The Fall of the Magicians, but it's only in the poems he wrote in the early 1950's (Poems 1947 - 1954) and in particular in his uncollected poems that this side of him comes alive. The poems from this period are premonitions of Lowell, even of Plath. Kees writes like a man trying to fight off his demons with the aid of poetry; there is a note of authentic despair in his voice (even though he struggles to maintain a distant, almost academic tone) that gives these poems a sense of deep autumnal urgency. Today's poem is a good example of this - there are some beautiful lines here ("Blank sheets of paper that reflect the world / Whitened the world I was silenced by") but what really makes this poem work is the sense of defeat and dread: the first stanza paralysed and helpless, the second at once a revival and a surrender, a portrait of a man granted a small reprieve, but faced (as the last line tells us) with the inevitable return of his depression. Any man who can dismiss two years of his life in half a line ("There were two years of that.") is a poet: brave, precise and true. Aseem  You can read Lane's article at: http://www.newyorker.com/critics/atlarge/articles/050704crat_atlarge There's also a biography of Kees at: http://mockingbird.creighton.edu/NCW/kees.htm And a selection of his poems at: [broken link] http://www.poemhunter.com/weldon-kees/poet-9071/