Monday, September 29, 2014

make use

Late Summer

by Anna Kamienska

I'll lock myself now
in a cell of prickly hay
to think through all from the beginning

A leaf a root an ant a hare
the sea a cloud a rock

I’ll think about them
as a sinner thinks
about his sins

I’ll ask myself
whether I regret very much
not belonging to a land of green

I’ll question how many times
I didn’t ask roots which way to go

I’ll repent before water a cloud
a birch-tree

I’ll wash their feet
and dress their wounds

Why can’t I be reconciled
to green rustling life
and sleep among mortal dreams

teach me to fall
on the indifferent earth

The land of green is swiftly becoming the land of gold. But last week, on a walk I took a little further down the utility corridor than I usually go, there was green. I'd been hoping to see geese or ducks on the pond which is rather swampy around the edges. There were none. But there were flowers (weeds, I'm sure some would say) that don't appear on my usual paths.

"Make use of the things around you.
This light rain
Outside the window, for one.
This cigarette between my fingers,
These feet on the couch.
The faint sound of rock-and-roll,
The red Ferrari in my head.
The woman bumping
Drunkenly around in the kitchen …
Put it all in,
Make use.”

- Raymond Carver, from “Sunday Night,” in All of Us: The Collected Poems

I'm sure I must have read the Carver poem above at some point. I own the book. It's somewhere on my rather chaotic poetry book shelf.

You have to make use of what you've got. Whether taking photographs, or writing poems, or a novel. Use everything you've got, put it all in. Everything you've seen, experienced, read. This is how I feel anyway, and then the trick is to find the form that will hold it all, a container, a vessel.

I write trying to make sense of things for myself, trying to make use of what I've been given and where I am. Which is why I continue even though others have done it better.

Others have done it more succinctly, sublimely, with more panache, with cool irony or brilliant detachment, with genius, with heartache, more philosophically, more poetically. More alone and from higher up or lower down. Laconically. With a beautiful struggle, through hardship. With greater joy. More skill and technique. With less bitterness, less fear, less tears. Less ugly weeping. Less exhaustion. Fewer moments of nearly chucking it in. Less desperate, less self-conscious. More droll. More worldly. More savoir-faire. More chutzpa. More attentive, more gifted, more highly educated, more self-deprecating. More confidence. More well-travelled. More witty, clever. More thoughtful. More steeped in the subject. More subtle. More elegant, more graceful. More robust. Less clumsy, less daft. Less lazy. Less of a try hard. Less telling more showing. More believable, more certain. More lonely. More reclusive. More outgoing. More marketable. More well-versed. Less dull. More stylish. Less innocent.

Well, one could go on....

The thing is to continue with whatever you happen to have been given. You'll make of the subject matter what only you can make of it.


  1. Thank you for the beautiful poetry here, Raymond Carver had a knack of laying it all out there, bare, vulnerable, beautiful in the sometimes (frequent) ugliness of the subject, always exposing a redeeming tenderness, or at at least I thought. This post makes me think a little of Leo Lionni's children's book Frederick, I think I'll have to dig that one out and have a little read with the youngest here. I like the idea of poets being like little field mice hoarding precious summer moments to survive the darker moments of winter. xo

    1. I agree - there is most often a tenderness with Carver. And Frederick! I'll have to look that one up again. It's been a while for me. But I love Lionni's books. Many good memories.

  2. Beautiful post and great advice! :)


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