Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A big voice, Galway Kinnell (1927-2014)

     Last week master poet Galway Kinnell died (NYTimes obituary).  One finds a detailed bio and a baker’s dozen of his best poems at the Poetry Foundation website -- do a search using the poet's name.  Many of Kinnell's poems are about nature -- somewhat in the way that mathematics may be about science  --  that is, he uses the images of nature to speak multiply of complex issues.  Here is a poem about identity that includes several math terms.

     The Gray Heron    by Galway Kinnell (1927-2014)

     It held its head still
     while its body and green
     legs wobbled in wide arcs 
     from side to side. When
     it stalked out of sight,
     I went after it, but all
     I could find where I was
     expecting to see the bird
     was a three-foot-long lizard
     in ill-fitting skin
     and with linear mouth
     expressive of the even temper
     of the mineral kingdom.
     It stopped and tilted its head,
     which was much like
     a fieldstone with an eye
     in it, which was watching me
     to see if I would go
     or change into something else.

From Kinnell’s collection Mortal Acts, Mortal Wounds  (Houghton Mifflin, 1980).  

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