Saturday, January 9, 2010


I’ve decided to make January’s Weekly Poem series all Kenneth Patchen, all the time—no particular meaning or reason in this other than my admiration for his poetry. Today’s offering is one of his beautiful, & beautifully transparent, love poems. There isn’t much I can add in terms of commentary, but I can tell you that there’s a recording available of Patchen reading this & 27 other poems: it’s Smithsonian Folkways’ release Kenneth Patchen Reads His Love Poems. I haven’t heard this, but I have heard recordings of Patchen reading (including a recording backed by the Charles Mingus band!) & I’m confident this would be a wonderful recording to have around—there’s really nothing like hearing a poet speak poetry in his/her own voice.

A couple of blog news items before we move on to the poem. I’ve become quite intrigued by the idea of series that appear in alternate weeks—I first started this with the Tuesday mix of my translations & B.N.’s poems. As a result, I think I’ll be doing a lot more of this in the future—I’d like to get a bit more variety in the posts, & frankly, I think in my case at least, the blog has to keep re-creating itself to remain vital. I don’t know all the details on this myself yet, so we’ll all have to stay tuned! The Weekly Poem series will continue to appear each Saturday, & I will (as you'll read in a moment) have a weekly Sunday series (or a sort); otherwise, I think I'll be going to the alternate week format as the rule rather than the exception.

The other piece of news is that Sunday will be more or less an off day here; I do intend to post a Photo of the Week (with a descriptive caption), & the Sunday post also will have a link to my poetry blog, The Days of Wine & Roses. This blog has a poem from my San Francisco days posted each Sunday—a few of these have appeared here in the past, but most of them will be new to Robert Frost’s Banjo readers. For those of you who haven’t visited there yet, The Days of Wine & Roses is the current version of a poetry manuscript I’ve been working on since around 1990; it may be a book at some point, but for now it’s a blog. Hope to see some of you there!

In the meantime, hope you enjoy the poem.


Wherever the dead are there they are and
Nothing more. But you and I can expect
To see angels in the meadowgrass that look
Like cows—
And wherever we are in paradise
        in furnished room without bath and
        six flights up
Is all God! We read
To one another, loving the sound of the s’s
Slipping-up on the t’s and much is good
Enough to raise the hair on our heads, like
        Rilke and Owen.

Any person who loves another person,
Wherever in the world, is with us in this room—
        even though there are battlefields.

Kenneth Patchen


  1. I think this is one of the most beautiful love poems I've ever read. I can't say exactly why it affects me as it does, except perhaps it is the equating of love with heaven or the revelation of their shared activity...or maybe it's the whole.

  2. That is just so different in all the best ways. I had never heard of him, so thanks for pointing him out from the crowd. I think I must join you in your admiration for him.

  3. Hi Karen & Dave

    Karen: I'd agree; I think the shared experience is a big part of it.

    Dave: Glad to be able to introduce you!

  4. yeah!!! thanks for highlighting kenneth - who among many great things is the creator of the magical mouse poem - of course one of my all time favs!!!!

    i missed his birthday in december - which a couple years ago I did remember and posted the mouse poem...


  5. What a good poem. It could so easily be corny, but it's not. It walks the line without falling off.

  6. Hi Mouse & Dominic

    Mouse: He's great isn't he! I'm not sure I know the mouse poem however... will have to look into that pronto.

    Dominic: In a way, Patchen's strength is his ability to always walk that line & very rarely fall off.

  7. I'm with Karen; this is truly one of the most beautiful love poems I've ever been exposed to as well. Thank you so much for sharing it!

    This could be my relationship with Kevin! We love to go for drives and look at the cows. We read to each other and we have lived in a few less than ideal spots, but we always maintain that as long as we have each other, we will be happy.
    I must share this with him!


  8. I read it to Kevin and as I did, I absorbed the last line for the first time. Funny, it fits as well.

  9. Hi Kat: Yes, that last stanza is really quite remarkable. You've sure done some reading this afternoon--thanks!

  10. Perfect.

    I need more Patchen in my life. :)


    Do you really think it's better when the poet reads their own poems aloud??

    I wrote an eight page one on The Dead End Kids (ha!) and for some reason, thought I might post it...but I don't know: it doesn't come across right; thought I might read it in a video post, instead.


    You checked out Frank Stanford yet?

    'The Moon is the Battlefield...' is his famous one, so the last line of this Patchen poem reminded me of him. :)

  11. Hi Ginger: Thanks for the reminder--when I saw your comment I looked him up on the internet--poetry foundation dot org has a pretty good selection. Powerful stuff. I'm surprised I hadn't heard of him before, since I studied poetry in Virginia & a bunch of folks there were into contemporary southern poets. Two I particularly liked are ”The Light the Dead See By” & ”In Another Room I Am Drinking Eggs from a Boot”. Thanks for putting me on to him!

  12. Ginger:

    Oh, & about reading--I don't know that I mean the reading by the poet is better per se, but I think it kind of gives the poem another dimension than you get on the page. I'd be happy either to read or hear your work. Just keep me posted (so to speak!)


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