Today in New England a celebration is taking place to pay tribute to one of the most astute poets of that region: Hayden Carruth.1 Until two days ago I had not even heard of this poet but, while waiting in the Launceston Tasmania library at mid-day(21/11/’08) before going for an ultra-sound at a local hospital, I picked up somewhat at random volume 84 of Contemporary Literary Criticism, a useful encyclopedia of analysis and commentary of the works of writers and poets, biographers and autobiographers as well as novelists and journalists. I had been dipping into this encyclopedia in the last fifteen years(circa 1993-2008) , beginning in the last several years of my employment as a full-time teacher in Western Australia.
In the same spirit of randomness and, perhaps, serendipity, as someone might browse through a magazine while waiting in a doctor’s reception area, my eyes casually fell on the pages devoted to Hayden Carruth. I found out very quickly many things about his life, about his poetry and his general writings. When I got home I looked him up on the internet. I found out he had just died and that this celebration I mention here was taking place today. I write this prose-poem to contribute my part to a celebration of someone I hardly know but with whom, in only the last two days, I have developed a sense of a spiritual, an intellectual, kinship. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Times Argus Online,15 November 2008.
I often write with a certain weary ease,
Hayden, not like you.1 I often write, too,
with an overt utilitarianism but, like you,
it is often indirect and as subtle as I can.
My criticism is, like yours, a verging on
philosophy, indeed, a deep-down thing.
There is for both of us, too, a subjective,
an objective, communalism in my openly
transcendent prose-poetic acts. You wrote
things about poetry, Hayden, which I can
only quote and will quote to end this verse:
Poetry is the reason for all things humanly
true and beautiful, and the product of them—
wisdom, scholarship, love, teaching—Love
of poetry is the habit and the need of wise
men wherever they are, and when for some
reason of social or personal disadjustment
they are deprived of it, they will be taxed
in spirit and will do unaccountable things.
Great men will turn instinctively to the
poetic labour of their time, because it is
the most honourable and useful, as it is the
most difficult, human, endeavour.2
.....and on and on you went as if the poet
Shelley had been reborn as a result of your
painful but incredible trip backwards toward
the evolutionary roots of poetry in a politics
of poetic spirituality and its politics of love.
I wish you well, Hayden, in that Undiscovered
Country, as Shakespeare once called the Land
of Lights which, perchance, you may now enjoy.
1 Judith Weissman quoted in Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 84, p.116 from an introduction to Working Papers: Selected Essays and Reviews by Hayden Carruth, edited by Judith Weissman, The University of Georgia Press,1982, pp. xv-xxiii.
2 Hayden Carruth in Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 84, p.117.
23 November 2008