Monday, October 1, 2012

"Something Will Be Mine Wherever I Am"

It is possible to enter October with a sense of exhilaration -- at least until the wistfulness, the bittersweetness, and the longing arrive.  In fact, according to the following poem by Patrick Kavanagh, October may even make you feel that you are forever 19-years-old.  (I leave it to you, dear Reader, to decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.)

When I was 19, I was attending a university that is located beside the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara.  I presume that I had nothing to complain about.  For instance, I remember playing basketball outside in the sun on the asphalt while listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd play a concert in an outdoor stadium that lay across the playing fields from the courts.  I recall "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird" wafting over the green fields on the breeze.

As they say (and I realized this -- with a pang -- on that afternoon):  "It doesn't get any better than this."  I suppose that those are the youthful Wordsworthian intimations of immortality/mortality that one was liable to have at that time and in that place.

                               James Purdy (1900-1972), "Pennine View"


O leafy yellowness you create for me
A world that was and now is poised above time,
I do not need to puzzle out Eternity
As I walk this arboreal street on the edge of a town.
The breeze, too, even the temperature
And pattern of movement, is precisely the same
As broke my heart for youth passing.  Now I am sure
Of something.  Something will be mine wherever I am.
I want to throw myself on the public street without caring
For anything but the prayering that the earth offers.
It is October over all my life and the light is staring
As it caught me once in a plantation by the fox coverts.
A man is ploughing ground for winter wheat
And my nineteen years weigh heavily on my feet.

Patrick Kavanagh, Come Dance with Kitty Stobling and Other Poems (1960).

Kavanagh wrote "October" during the period of exhilaration and creativity that followed his successful treatment for lung cancer in 1955.  I have previously discussed this time of his life in connection with his poems "Is" and "Question to Life."  Like many of the poems that Kavanagh wrote during this period, "October" is a sonnet (or something akin to a sonnet).

                  Stanley Cursiter (1887-1976), "Orkney Landscape" (1952)


Clarissa Aykroyd said...

This is one of my favourite poems. It has a string of associations for me - the few years that I lived in Ireland, the U2 album called October, the feelings that come back from my late teen years.

Julie Whitmore Pottery said...

Stephen, you have done this reader a great service by introducing me to the poems of Kavanagh. I esteem Irish writers (I think I've tried to convince you before to read the novels and short stories of William Trevor) but had never come across him until I discovered your thoughts on poetry.
An earlier poem first caught my attention about recording a singing bird's melancholy for a future listener, and I now look forward to your posts that feature this poet. He and October seem well suited!

bruce floyd said...

Indian summer pierces the heart deeper than does the one that comes in June. At least Dickinson seems to think so.

Summer has two Beginnings --
Beginning once in June --
Beginning in October
Affectingly again --

Without, perhaps, the Riot
But graphicker for Grace --
As finer is a going
Than a remaining Face --

Departing then -- forever --
Forever -- until May --
Forever is deciduous
Except to those who die --

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms Aykroyd: thanks for visiting again, and for your thoughts. Kavanagh's poems during this period are nearly all very memorable, aren't they?

Stephen Pentz said...

Julie: I'm pleased to have brought Kavanagh to your attention -- I only started reading his poems myself a few years ago, so his work has been an ongoing discovery for me as well. The poem that you refer to -- "Wet Evening in April" -- is one of my favorites also: just four lines, but very memorable.

I have a collection of stories and a collection of non-fiction pieces by Trevor, but I have never gotten around to reading them. I need to do so.

As always, I appreciate hearing from you.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Floyd: thank you once again for another poem by Dickinson -- it has been nice to consider these counterpoints by her to some of the things that I have been posting. I appreciate you taking the time to do so.