[HIS LIFE WAS THE PRACTICE]
His life was the practice of forming a single
sentence which, as he grew older, he tried to
simplify, reduce its compound-complex structure
into one statement ruled by the separate, inviolate
pronoun within which he attempted to live, always
engaged in revision and the act of becoming; as the
distilled statement gradually became a fleeting
inquiry, a mild interrogative, which he repeated and
refined, making it increasingly concise, almost, at
his conclusion, producing no more than a distinct
sound, not quite a word, less than a cry, which his
death erased leaving the question mark hanging in
the air, like a broken halo, emblem of his birth,
evolution and release: a full life.
You can read another of Stephen Dobyns’ poems, Yellow Beak, here (recommended!): http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16845
He is a poet and an author, including the detective stories featuring Charlie Bradshaw, each title of which has Saratoga as the first word.
Here’s 2 somethings from The Porcupine’s Kisses:
Look at this dark night: no stars, no moon. Look at this crowd of
people. Do you know one better than the other?
It isn’t yours until you can stand to see it break.
His book of essays on poetry, Best Words, Best Order: Essays on Poetry, looks like a good way to pull myself further into this new world of the poem that I have started to enter. Here’s a bit more about Dobyns, from the Amazon.com review:
Dobyns, the author of eight volumes of poetry (and 17 novels), believes, like Baudelaire, that “each poem … has an optimum number of words [and] an optimum number of pieces of information … and to go over or under even by one word weakens the whole.” Poetry, he says, belongs to the reader, not the writer, and as readers, “at the close of the poem, we must not only feel that our expectations have been met but that our lives have been increased, if only to a small degree.” And, if that’s not challenge enough for the writer, add to it “that the conclusion of a given piece must appear both inevitable and surprising.”
I’d add that a good story always seems that way — inevitable and surprising, just like a good life. Surprising at the time, but in hindsight, how could it have gone any other way?