Looking back and forward: Pond Song 31 August 2013

In the midst of planning a new sequence –drawing on my experiences in Northern California in the 70s and 80s and now in Oregon — I look back at my Pond Songs http://metaxysongs.com  THOSE poems were written every Sunday for a number of years on a walk around South Mill Pond in Portsmouth NH. The texts I was mediating then included Emerson and Thoreau (and Cavell of course); the primary formal invention was rooted in my research in the classical Chinese poem and the philosophical texts relevant thereto, especially the Zhuangzi.  The epigraphs were all taken from William Desmond’s work, usually God and the Between. I think they repay rereading. Now reading Milosz’s The Land of Ulro I understand a little more about the impulse behind the pond songs: a hinterland other to Ulro. He writes: “Ultimately, only a time measured by sacral standards, and not mechanical clock-time, can sanction a belief in the reality of things” (122). The mysterious connection between “sacral standards” and “the reality of things” is always already the point of writing a poem for me, as I look back and look ahead. Rereading Milosz and Levertov has proved very rewarding so far.

Pond Song 3.63

“We distract ourselves with ‘meaning.’” G&B 29

nature’s copia nature’s baroque__still hot air of August

smudge of the morning moon__just enough clarity to lust

after more but nothing doing__the pond offers a few numbers

4 cormorants 2 egrets 1 heron__the count changes of course

driftwood gray satin stalker__did you croak just now

a glint a still wet beak__a cormorant’s under his shadow

this is that no longer holds__a still there dragonfly flows

over the tall dry grasses__three bees roll in one rose

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at tom.develyn@comcast.net. D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at http://tdevelyn.com and other sites.

One thought on “Looking back and forward: Pond Song 31 August 2013”

  1. As you know Tom, I always enjoyed your pond songs. To you they were infused with your philosophical readings, as you say; I might have missed the precise references in your mind but I used to appreciate the quiet beauty of each scene, the acceptance of the transience of things, the reminder of how we humans share the world with other creatures each of which must press on with its own destiny. This pond song, longer than most I remember, is a lovely example of all that. I’m glad you’ve revisited the series.


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