Today would be the 104th Birthday of Stanley Kunitz, the poet who wrote “The Layers,” the namesake of my humble little blog here. He died in 2006 at the age of 100. Check out this beautiful Op Art tribute from the New York Times.
In the reflections that open up The Collected Poems, Kunitz wrote:
Years ago I came to the realization that the most poignant of all lyric tensions stems from the awareness that we are living and dying at once. To embrace such knowledge and yet to remain compassionate and whole–that is the consummation of the endeavor of art.
And now, for a poem he wrote on the occasion of his 79th birthday, 25 years ago.
Walking down Valencia Street in San Francisco today on the way to lunch, I noticed a cat sitting in the window of what looked to be a defunct junk shop of sorts. At first I thought the cat was simply another piece of abandoned decoration–a tacky excuse for taxidermy nestled in between a refrigerator, a coil burner, and a miniature, light-up Christmas tree. But lo and behold, this darling creature was a living, breathing feline. If I had nine lives, I wouldn’t mind inhabiting a window for awhile, either.
“To A Cat”–Jorge Luis Borges
Mirrors are not more silent
nor the creeping dawn more secretive;
in the moonlight, you are that panther
we catch sight of from afar.
By the inexplicable workings of a divine law,
we look for you in vain;
More remote, even, than the Ganges or the setting sun,
yours is the solitude, yours the secret.
Your haunch allows the lingering
caress of my hand. You have accepted,
since that long forgotten past,
the love of the distrustful hand.
You belong to another time. You are lord
of a place bounded like a dream.
Thanks to my friend Michelle for sending me this great link to a blog run by two lovely public librarians in Michigan. Awful Library Books is a running collection of books that they find funny, questionable, amusing, etc. They want you to send in your own photos so take a trip to your public library and find a dusty, offensive treasure.
If you’re going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area this weekend and love poetry as much as I do (or are ready to fall in love with it for the first time), check out the International Poetry Festival. All of the events which range from street parties to readings to crawls are listed here.
I traveled to the festival two years ago and got to enjoy Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading at Cafe Trieste before heading over the the Palace of Fine Arts where I saw 10 or so poets from around the world read in their original languages (with translation projected in the back). There’s something so indescribly powerful about poets coming together in one space to celebrate the written and spoken word. Come tomorrow, you can find me once again at the Palace of Fine Arts, where an awesome line-up of poets, including Ferlinghetti, will be reading.
Today I return to this digital scrapbook of mine. There’s so much to say but sleep beckons, so tonight, I offer an image from this morning’s farmer’s market: a lovely heart-shaped tomato that caught my eye and reminded me of a poem by Pablo Neruda, master of the ode.
Sidenote: After I took this picture, I watched a tiny, craggy woman, circa 80-90 years old, dancing in a beautiful, helter skelter zigag to the tunes of the morning’s live musician. No one else was dancing. I caught up to her later and told her how much I enjoyed her moves. We walked together for a moment, sharing our wish that people be less inhibited, that people just get up and groove. “Thank you for making me smile,” I told her before we parted ways. She looked up at me, grinned, and blew me a kiss.
Tomatoes and plucky old ladies. There are so many reasons to fall in love with this crazy world every day.
Ode to Tomatoes-Pablo Neruda
filled with tomatoes
through the streets.
it enters at lunchtime,
its own light,
Unfortunately, we must
into living flesh,
populates the salads
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
of the roast
at the door,
the table, at the midpoint
star of earth,
its remarkable amplitude
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
of fiery color
and cool completeness.