Showing 1 - 2 of 2 annotations associated with Carruth, Hayden
- Davis, Cortney
This long poem is divided into 48 segments, each a meditation on the narrator's struggle to live with emphysema. Some sections consist of only one line (10: "How alone can you get?"), others are more lengthy; for example, section 37 is a primer on inhalers, "puffers, " how to use them and what happens if you don't.
Every observation in this poem is from a literate poet's point of view, one here focused on emphysema, and so the breath, the body, and the daily rituals of living become primary. The whole world breathes--even the computer, which "sighs" when it is turned off (section 34)--but the poet cannot catch his breath. Reading the poem, even silently, the reader becomes short of breath too, physically aware of the patient's limitations.
In section 24, Carruth laments that he cannot even negotiate the 500 yards up hill to his son's house; in section 29, he writes that even the dog seems "reproachful" when his owner is unable "to play" and throw the blue ball. The accumulated limitations of these taken-for-granted actions makes the author both "pissed and sorry" for the dog, for the man, for the world.
In spite of the physical rebellion of the lungs, the narrator continues to smoke, as many patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) do, adding another dimension to this poem. Even facing death, the patient's addiction to tobacco is overwhelming; in section 11, the narrator says, "Now I am dying. Now I am afraid. Please give me a cigarette." In section 45, Carruth laments this "nonsense of misery."
- Aull, Felice
Written while Carruth was approaching or had reached the age of 80 years, this collection understandably reflects the recognition of aging, loss, and of a changing world. Also, there are memories--of jazz and jazz players, relatives, pets, youth. And there is life in the present--with grown children, old friends, the Vermont countryside, writing, remembering, coping, not coping. Throughout, Carruth has a no-nonsense style; a mixture of straight talk, irony, irreverence, contemplation--and wonderful craft.
Carruth's adult daughter, Martha, died miserably of cancer in the late 1990s; in Part II, "Martha," Carruth describes himself as "blocked and almost silent / for two years. Titled "Dearest M --", this is a 15-page elegy that accomplishes "a release of some dire kind" (46) for Carruth, but he can't take pleasure in the release, feeling shame instead ("how shaming, how / offensive!"). Even in his mourning, Carruth raises questions about the ethics of writing such poems, and questions whom he is addressing ("not Martha. The absence / is like a hollow in my mind" ).
Section IV, "Faxes to William," is a series of 54 short poems addressed in "faxes" to a mysterious William: "William, do you know why / I like writing these faxes / to you? Because you / don't have a fax machine" (75). The poems instruct William about writing poetry ("some poets write blurbs, William, / and some do not. And it is by / a law of nature that the former / envy the latter desperately . . . They have unmade / their beds and they must schlepp in them" ); and life ("William, for the things / life didn't give us / we have no / compensation. None." ); and pose conversational questions ("You say I shouldn't write / so much about old age?) that have their own answers (I always / told my students to write / about what they know" ).
Section V, "Basho," is in dialogue with a 17th-century Japanese poet who is considered to be the best haiku poet during the time this form was being developed. Carruth's haiku-like poems in this section blend reflections on aging with reflections on writing poetry.
The final section, "Second Scrapbook," continues to explore memories ("Memory," in which Carruth learns of a former wife's death and can remember her--fondly--only as she was years ago. "My dear, / How could you have let this happen to you?" ); growing old ("Senility": "week after week, the mist gathering" ); representation ("Something for the Trade": Please note well, all you writers, editors, directors / out there: when a phone call is terminated / by the other person you do not, NOT, hear / a dial tone" ).