Monday, January 26, 2009

Galway Kinnell Birthday Reading

WhatA poetical celebration of Galway Kinnell’s birth, life and poetry.
Monday, February 2, 2009 at 7:00 PM
Barnes & Noble Bookseller
3311 Tittabawassee Rd.
Saginaw , MI 48603
phone 989.790.9214
Who should comeJoin us if you love poetry or are curious as to what poetry is all about. Join us if you'd like to talk to people whose hearts and minds are more open than closed. Join us if you can agree or disagree with someone's opinion respectfully. Bring a book if you can. It’s OK if it’s from your library. Note: Galway Kinnell will not be joining our group.
Find out what poems sound like out loud. Listen in on the group and then find a place where you can jump in and read something yourself. Great fun for the whole family. If you have specialized knowledge regarding our poet, do not hesitate to regale us with your story. Don't expect to leave our event with a definitive understanding of the poet or the poems but please do seek to experience and communicate the joys of poetry with others. Join in our informal discussion of poems we know and love and poems we are only just discovering. Better readers make better writers. Visit with our group where everyone's poetry is valued if not appreciated. If you have a smile to share be sure to bring it; otherwise be prepared to leave with one on your face and in your heart. If you're too far away to join us, create your own Birthdays of Poets Reader’s Workshop. Speak up now and forever share your peace. Tell (bring!) a friend.
How to find the organizer(s)We are in the Poetry section, near the window that affords a view of Tittabawassee Road. The staff at Barnes & Noble will put up a sign that says 'This space reserved for The River Junction Poets at 7 p.m.' We'll be getting a few folding chairs to add around the coffee table there.
Kinnell, Galway (1927- ), was born in Providence, Rhode island, and studied at Princeton and the University of Rochester. He served in the United States Navy and then visited Paris on a Fulbright Fellowship. Returning to the United States, he worked for the Congress on Racial Equality and then travelled widely in the Middle East and Europe. He has taught at several colleges and universities, including California, Pittsburgh, and New York. The poems of his first volume, What a Kingdom It Was (1960), were informed by a traditional Christian sensibility. However, while retaining a sacramental dimension, his later work burrows fiercely into the self away from traditional sources of religious authority or even conventional notions of personality. 'If you could keep going deeper and deeper', he has said, 'you'd finally not be a person ... you'd be a blade of grass or ultimately perhaps a stone. And if a stone could read poetry would speak for it.'
The poems issuing from this conviction may be found in such collections as Flower Herding on Mount Monadnock (1964), Body Rags (1968), The Book of Nightmares (1971), and Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (1980). Short, chanting lines, a simple, declarative syntax, emphatic rhythms, bleak imagery, and insistent repetition: all are used here to generate the sense of the poet as shaman who throws off the 'sticky infusions' of speech and becomes one with the natural world, sharing in the primal experiences of birth and death. Walking Down the Stairs (1978) is a useful selection of interviews with Kinnell; he has also published a number of translations.
From The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century Poetry in English. Ed. Ian Hamilton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Copyright © 1994 by Oxford University Press.

In late winter 
I sometimes glimpse bits of steam 
coming up from 
some fault in the old snow 
and bend close and see it is lung-colored 
and put down my nose 
and know 
the chilly, enduring odor of bear.  

I take a wolf's rib and whittle
it sharp at both ends 
and coil it up
and freeze it in blubber and place it out 
on the fairway of the bears.  

And when it has vanished
I move out on the bear tracks, 
roaming in circles 
until I come to the first, tentative, dark
splash on the earth.

Excerpted from accessed 1/26/09

In Galway Kinnell's poem "The Bear," a hunter stalks the bear to its death, falls asleep exhausted, dreams he becomes the bear, and then awakens somehow changed into a creature half-bear, half-man. The poem's strength and its problems hinge upon the hunter persona Kinnell adopts, attempting to fuse the consciousness of a modern man with that of a primitive Eskimo. This persona means that the poet must move through the technical realism of hunting to its metaphysical implications without spoiling one or the other, as he tries to illustrate man's sacred bond with nature by the simple, brutal hunting of the bear. Given the distance from Kinnell's ordinary experience, it may be helpful first to examine the literary contexts of the poem—its sources and analogues—in order to see how the poet resolves these conflicts between meaning and realism.
Speaking of the origins of "The Bear" in an interview, Kinnell said,
I guess I had just read Cummings' poem on Olaf, who says, "there is some shit I will not eat." It struck me that that rather implies that some of our diet, if not all, is shit. And then I remembered this bear story, how the bear's shit was infused with blood, so that the hunter by eating the bear's excrement was actually nourished by what the bear's wound infused into it.
Kinnell's poem transcends this excremental level, but it is worth looking at the transformation-what he got from the Cummings' poem and the bear story, and how he used it to fashion the poetic world of "The Bear."

All best and see you Monday,
Andrew Christ
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Parting Thoughts
Research indicates that better readers make better writers. Maybe this is why, in the Poet's Market, editors of literary magazines often recommend poets read more poetry. Are you not aware? You are a cultural event, and so is everyone else.

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