...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

March 09, 2005

Wednesday Is Poetry Day

Paul suggested Raymond Carver, and i thought, great idea, everybody loves Raymond, right? i swear i've heard that name before, too. So i checked my extensive poetry library (um, shelf) and would you believe it? Not a single Ramond Carver piece in any of the various anthologies i have.

Okay, to the web. Raymond Carver is described thusly at Writer's Calendar:

American short-story writer and poet, a major force in the revitalization of the short story in the 1980s. Carver's reputation continued to grow after his death at the age of fifty.

. . .

Raymond Carver was born in Clatskanie, a mill town on the Columbia River in Oregon. His father, a sawmill worker, was an alcoholic. At home he used to tell him stories about his own hunting and fishing exploits, and about his grandfather, who had fought in the Civil War, for both sides.

Carver, who died in 1988, studied at Cal State Chico and Cal State Humboldt, where he got his BA. (Both are infamous party schools today.) Chico honors him with a festival every year. Carver also taught English at Syracuse, and Jay McInerney (author of the eighties classic, Bright Lights, Big City) is a former student.
Carver published his . . . first poem, 'The Brass Ring,' in Targets, which also had a poem by Charles Bukowski. During these years of working in different jobs, rising kids, and trying to write, Carver started to drink. 'Alcohol became a problem. I more or less gave up, threw in the towel, and took to full-time drinking as a serious pursuit.'
Today's poem is a drunk poem, but a good one.


Vodka chased with coffee. Each morning
I hang the sign on the door:


But no one pays attention; my friends
look at the sign and
sometimes leave little notes,
or else they call - Come out and play,
Ray - mond.

Once my son, that bastard,
slipped in and left me a colored egg
and a walking stick.
I think he drank some of my vodka.
And last week my wife dropped by
with a can of beef soup
and a carton of tears.
She drank some of my vodka, too, I think,
then left hurriedly in a strange car
with a man I'd never seen before.
They don't understand; I'm fine,
just fine where I am, for any day now
I shall be, I shall be, I shall be . . .

I intend to take all the time in this world,
consider everything, even miracles,
yet remain on guard, ever
more careful, more watchful,
against those who would sin against me,
against those who would steal vodka,
against those who would do me harm.

The end of Carver's bio is both redemptive and tragic.
On June 2, 1977 Carver stopped drinking with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. After this 'line of demarcation' his stories became increasingly more expansive. In 1982 Carver divorced Maryann. From 1979 Carver had lived with the poet Tess Gallagher (b.1943), they had met at a writers' conference in Dallas. They married in 1988. The wedding took place in Reno. Two months later, on August 2, 1988, the author died of lung cancer. . . . After writing [the] story, 'Errand,' about Chekhov's death, Carver learned that he had cancer.
The Writer's Calendar bio compares Carver's poetry and prose to Chekov, Bukowski, William Carlos Williams, Kafka, Pinter, and Richard Ford. (i'm a fan of all of those writers, with the possible exception of Ford. So, thanks for the suggestion, Paul, i'll have to check out more of Carver's stuff.)

Posted by annika, Mar. 9, 2005 |
Rubric: Poetry


Annie, I didn't know that one. That's superb -- alcoholism in all its pathos and paranoia.

Posted by: Hugo on Mar. 10, 2005