Saturday, September 5, 2009

“And What with the Blunders”

The poem that follows is quite simply one of my favorite poems. It’s by Kenneth Patchen (also one of my very favorite poets), & it has long struck me as something perfect of its kind. I could point to this line or that; I could discuss the shifts in voice (often found in Patchen) or the plain language occasionally elevated (also a Patchen mainstay), but other than mentioning them, I’ll let the poem speak for itself.

Have a lovely Saturday wherever you are, friends.

AND WHAT WITH THE BLUNDERS, what with the real humor of the address, the end is sure to be attained, that of roarous fun in the roused hamlet or mountain village which pours forth its whole population in a swarm round the amorous orator, down to the baby that can but just toddle and the curs that join in the clamor, mad with ecstasy at the novelty of some noise besides that of trees and the horrible clamor of the grass

We talked of things but all the time we wanted each other
and finally we were silent and I knelt above your body

a closing of eyes
and falling unfalteringly
over a warm pure country and something crying

when I was a child things being hurt made me sorry
for them but it seemed the way men and women did
and we had not made the world

coming into it crying
(I wanted so not to hurt you)
and going out of it like a sudden pouring of salt

later, being tired and overflowing with tenderness
girl’s body to boy’s body lying there and wondering what it had been
we got to our feet very quietly so that they would not waken
but we felt their shy sorrowful look on us as we left them alone there

* * * * * *

All things are one to the earth
rayless as a blind leper Blake lies with everyman
and the fat lord sleeps beside his bastard at last
and it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t mean what we think it does
for we two will never lie there
we shall not be there when death reaches out his sparkling hands

there are so many little dyings that it doesn’t matter which of them is death

Kenneth Patchen


  1. It really is very good. Is it just me or does the poet seem to be speaking to me personally, almost like whispering in my ear.

  2. Hi Alan: I think one of Patchen's great strengths is that his poetic voice is very personal.

  3. This poem is just breathtaking.

  4. Hi Karen:

    Yes, that's a good word for it; glad you liked it.

  5. Wow! Love the "fat lord" rewrite of "the lion shall lie down with the lamb." Uplifting but a more than a bit queasy at the same time...

  6. It feels like quite a sophisticated poem I would like to read it several times for full flavour.That is a brilliant last line

    there are so many little dyings that it doesn’t matter which of them is death

    It alone warrants and sparks a lot of thought.I will copy it down to look at now and again.
    Ps another poet I've never read /heard of before-Thanks John

  7. Coming into it crying, and going out of it like a sudden pouring of salt is a wonderful evocation of our beginnings and our ends, and it never does mean quite what we think it does.

  8. Hi K & TFE & Mairi

    K: The emotion in Patchen's poems can be pretty raw right beneath the surface; & yes, the section you refer to is quite memorable.

    TFE: Yes, I think you'd like reading Patchen. He was also a visual artist, & he illustrated a good number of his poems, as well as writing poems where the word arrangement was a design of sorts (concrete poetry).

    Mairi: Yes, those lines really resonated with me this time around.


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