Friday, December 16, 2016

Reflections in the Garden

The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the GardenThe Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden 
by Stanley Kunitz

In a murderous time
     the heart breaks and breaks
          and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
     through dark and deeper dark 
          and not to turn.
I am looking for the trail.
     Where is my testing-tree?
          Give me back my stones!   

          from "The Testing-Tree" 

This is a unique collection of scintillating poems intertwined with conversations. The poems alone are worth the price of the book. The addition of the conversations is what makes this collection so special. With gardening as the starting point the reflections touch on many topics including personal history, poetry, the creative process, and the cycle of life. The garden was, for Stanley Kunitz, a source of solace and renewal as he dealt with personal health issues and the death of his wife in the spring of 2004.

For Kunitz "a garden holds infinite possibilities. What sense of its nature, or its kingdom, is it going to convey? It represents a selection, not only of whatever individual plants we consider to be beautiful, but also a synthesis that creates a new kind of beauty, that of a complex and multiple world. What you plant in your garden reflects your own sensibility, your concept of beauty, your sense of form. Every true garden is an imaginative construct, after all."

It is similar for poetry in that the creative process yields via the imagination a work of art, a poem, a thing of beauty. Yet for Kunitz " a poem seems to have no maker at all. Poems gather their own momentum and you feel they're moving on their own. You are part of the world in which they are born and come to maturity, but they have an identity beyond the person to whom they are confiding because the poem doesn't really belong to anyone, it belongs to a great tradition. The great tradition includes what I think of as the essential spirit of the poem which belongs to centuries, not to any single moment in time."  This is finally a collection of beautiful poetry, deep thoughts, and moving moments of conversation filled with meaning.

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