Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How to Live, Part Fourteen: "Compare And Contrast"

I am writing this in the oak-dotted and, sometimes, vineyard-covered hills of the Central Coast of California.  In the afternoon, quail visit a bird feeder out on a lawn.  Skittish but purposeful, they scurry and stop, scurry and stop, a perfectly choreographed head-bobbing group. 

The following poem by Norman MacCaig seems apt.  I would perhaps be open to charges of simple-mindedness if I were to suggest that the poem provides a wholly practical piece of advice on How to Live.  Yet, there is a truth circling about, in a good-humored way.

      Compare and Contrast

The great thinker died
after forty years of poking about
with his little torch
in the dark forest of ideas,
in the bright glare of perception,
leaving a legacy of fourteen books
to the world
where a hen disappeared
into six acres of tall oats
and sauntered unerringly
to the nest with five eggs in it.

Ewen McCaig (editor), The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon 2009).

                     Frances Hodgkins, "Wings over Water" (1931-1932)

A poem by Michael Longley may be apt as well.

              Out There

Do they ever meet out there,
The dolphins I counted,
The otter I wait for?
I should have spent my life
Listening to the waves.

Michael Longley, The Ghost Orchid (1995).

                                      Frances Hodgkins, "The Weir"


Anonymous said...

those poems are really great..sometimes we see.and a little frog..down in the well..its sees only a little part..and think that is the real world.

Stephen Pentz said...

Thank you for visiting again, Anita. I'm pleased that you like the poems. Happy New Year.

Fred said...


Good point!

In spite of the self-centered idealistic philosophy, things do exist even if they aren't observed by us. That tree does live, grow, and die, and it even makes a noise.

Anonymous said...

Happy New year 2 u 2!!))

Stephen Pentz said...

As always, thank you for the thoughts, Fred. Best wishes for the New Year.

James Russell said...

Frances Hodgkins in colour - a rare treat! I like her work but haven't quite worked out why.

Stephen Pentz said...

Thank you for visiting again, Mr. Russell. Yes, I know what you mean about Frances Hodgkins. I am not always fond of a "naive" style (although I'm not sure if that is the correct word for her style), but I like her work as well.