Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Reading Randall Jarrell

It never ceases to amaze me how little I know of and about poetry, but I love discovering new poems by poets that have been and gone, but left their mark.

It began a few weeks ago when I was reading Muldoon's latest book of essays, The End of the Poem. I came across Robert Lowell, who I'd heard mentioned in the same breath as Elizabeth Bishop in college but hadn't come across his work all that much before (yep, sheltered, dumb life). I read the extracts and got out my trusty Big Book of Poems, the Norton Anthology of Poems (4th ed), which I won't say makes comfortable bedtime reading, because it's a behemoth of a book to have open on your lap.

Anyhow, I've been sticking to 20thc poets, particularly looking at US poets, like Lowell, Bishop and came across Randall Jarell last night (as well as Charles Olsen but that's for another time). Again, I've heard his name mentioned before and wanted to look at his work. Born in 1914, he was old enough to serve during WWII, in the air corps and wrote some poems about this subject. I found the selection interesting because I've never read WWII poems before: it's usually Owens, Sasson, Graves and Brooks from WWI we reach for, when we think of war, or more correctly anti-war, poetry.

Anyhow, here's a link to 'The Death of the Ballturret Gunner' It's only five lines, give it a go.

And I think Jarrell has quite a mischievous twinkle in the photo on this page too. Some poets can be quite handsome, I think :)


Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Dear Barbara, congratulations for your prize, so marvellously surrounded, as I imagine it, by the windy, gusty greenness of your country I loved so much.

Together with S.Heaney, talking about poetry again, my favourite poet is R.S. Thomas who lived " just down there" on the shores in front of you.
I paste one of his poems for you that is the shiver and great jolt of my life.
All my best, Davide


I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Cailleach said...

What a gorgeous gem of a poem about appreciating the present, what you hold in your hands. Thanks for popping that in the comments box, Davide a brilliant fly-by poem drop, iike a pigeon! A good pigeon...

apprentice said...

Alan Gay brought this poem to our group a while back. It is a fantastic piece, so much compressed into 5 lines, like the life of a ballturret gunner I suspect -some of those boys last a matter of months.

Cailleach said...

Yes Apprentice it is a terrific poem and as Chief Biscuit mentioned above it does all it has to with great economy.