In honor of National Poetry Month I offer this one poem from the poet Hayden Carruth, who reminds us “the poem is a gift, a bestowal.”
The Impossible Indispensability of the Ars Poetica
But of course the poem is not an assertion. Do you see? When I wrote
That all my poems over the long years before I met you made you come true,
And that the poems for you since then have made you in yourself become more true,
I did not mean that the poems created or invented you. How many have foundered
In that sargasso! No, what I have been trying to say
Is that neither of the quaint immemorial views of poetry is adequate for us.
A poem is not an expression, nor is it an object. Yet it somewhat partakes of both. What a poem is
Is never to be known, for which I have learned to be grateful. But the aspect in which I see my own
Is as the act of love. The poem is a gift, a bestowal.
The poem is for us what instinct is for animals, a continuing and chiefly unthought corroboration of essence
(Thought thought, ours and the animals’, is still useful).
Why otherwise is the earliest always the most important, the formative? The Iliad, the Odyssey, the book of Genesis,
These were acts of Love, I mean deeply felt gestures, which continuously bestow upon us
What we are. And if I do not know which poem of mine
Was my earliest gift to you,
Except that it had to have been written about someone else,
Nevertheless it was the gesture accruing value to you, your essence, while you were still a child, and thereafter
Across all these years. And see how much
Has come from that first sonnet after our loving began, the one
That was a kiss, a gift, a bestowal. This is the paradigm of fecundity. I think the poem is not
Transparent, as some have said, nor a looking glass, as some have also said,
In its cage of visibility. It disperses among the words. It is a fluidity, a vapor, of love.
This, the instinctual, is what caused me to write, “Do you see?” instead of “Don’t you see?” in the first line
Of this poem, this loving treatise, which is what gives away the poem
And gives it all to you.
To learn more about Hayden Carruth and read more of his poems visit the Poetry Foundation.