Sometime in the early 1980s, when Hilda Morley came to read her poetry in San Jose, she wanted to see the ocean, so D and I took her to the Monterey Bay beach near Moss Landing. I wish I had written about it afterwards, because now I have forgotten almost everything about this jaunt except her tiny person, her good-quality raincoat and her love for Stefan Wolpe, her dead husband. And a sort of fierce, faded, unwillingly quiescent air she seemed to me to have. I bought her books, and she signed them, but they are in California and I am here near Lake Michigan, and must make do with the nice selection found in Postmodern American Poetry, pages 51-55.
Curve of the Water
To make that curve of the water
live--- to make it so, extended
into space wholly its own
& the rocks
part of the curve and therefore
grown into the hillside
& where the water is
the source of all other greens,
of a green not leaf---not moss-green,
green of the bracken but contains them: is
the well out of which they come, to which they also
return---is their harbor.
the reds, dark fires,
the burnt out
red siennas, thinned out yellow mirrors
of each other,
they flare up now
out of whatever it is, even on
the blue water the blueness of it.
They are there to
be the not-expected,
what is as variance to
what we know.
We see them but
they are not held as seen, not kept there
behind the eyes, never wholly
as if a bird's wing had
in the sunlight
to prove us earthbound
---Hilda Morley, 1988
Examine this poem and its use of space, the predictable and unpredictable strategies of spacing, the two ampersands and half-set of parentheses. Note also the loving and specific use of colors (Morley was a friend of many painters.) This is not a poem in stanzas, but it flows through space in a set of mini-stanza-like ways. When I was first writing poetry, I spread out some of my poems like this (I was somewhat challenged by my dot-matrix printer!) and Bob Hass said maybe I should stick to the left margin for a while. It has been a while and then some. Tonight I want to try moving around the page.
Literary biography reading note: Finally got back to Blake Bailey's book: Cheever; a life. It's a heavy tome; Cheever is mainly irritating, and often pitiable, in an irritating sort of way. I am two-thirds of the way through, and it is like a bad investment, you hang on because you have already spent so much energy on it. S is listening on Audible and we get to talk about it and that is nice. When I finish this, I'll go back to Cheever's very interesting, splenetic diaries. Think I'll have time to do any writing myself??? Sleep well.