Key West and Poetry
As the days shrink and Autumn begins in the Midwest it seems a welcome respite to meditate on the poetry inspired by Key West. Warm sunny days interspersed with "tropical rain" provide nice contrast to our fading flora. Here are some excerpts from Elizabeth Bishop, Wallace Stevens and Mark Strand.
The tropical rain comes down
to freshen the tide-looped strings of fading shells:
Job's Tear, the Chinese Alphabet, the scarce Junonia,
parti-colored pectins and Ladies' Ears,
arranged as on a gray rag of rotted calico,
the buried Indian Princess's skirt;
with these the monotonous, endless, sagging coast-line
is delicately ornamented.
~ Elizabeth Bishop, "Florida"
For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? We said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.
~Wallace Stevens, "The Idea of Order at Key West"
Now you invent the boat or your flesh and set it upon the waters and drift in
the gradual swell, in the laboring salt.
Now you look down. The waters of childhood are there.
~Mark Strand, "Where are the Waters of Childhood?"
The world, the spirit, and the flesh are all present in our lives and in the poetry that inspires us.