God banish from your house
The fly, the roach, the mouse

That riots in the walls
Until the plaster falls;

Admonish from your door
The hypocrite and liar;

No shy, soft tigrish fear
Permit upon your stair,

Nor agents of your doubt.
God drive them whistling out.

Let nothing touched with evil,
Let nothing that can shrivel

Heart's tenderest frond, intrude
Upon your still deep blood.

Against the drip of night
God keep all windows tight,

Protect your mirrors from
Surprise, delirium,

Admit no trailing wind
Into your shuttered mind

To plume the lake of sleep
With dreams. If you must weep

God give you tears, but leave
You secrecy to grieve,

And islands for your pride,
And love to nest in your side.

God grant that, to the bone,
Yourself may be your own;

God grant that I may be
(my sweet) sweet company.

Stanley Kunitz—"Benediction"

Stanley Kunitz turns 100 today. I can't say that he ranks among my favorite poets, but in the above he certainly wrote a piece that ranks among my favorite poems. And to write one great poem in a lifetime is quite an achievement. Many people are celebrating Kunitz's milestone, but as an NPR fan, I'll naturally wave at the coverage on All Things Considered, which is almost entirely taken up by what sounds like a new poem of his, "The Long Boat". It's a nice piece (the text is on the page I just linked to) using the viking funereal boat as its central metaphor, offering some very palpable images and a finely balanced ending that can only come from the quiet wisdom of long years contemplating that sepulchural voyage.

As I said in my piece on Richard Eberhart:

I meant to link to "Benediction" but I can't find a respectable transcription of on-line. It deserves its own entry, so some other day I'll type it in for Quotīdiē. But I do want to mention that I found "A Young Greek, Killed in the Wars", "The Fury of Aerial Bombardment" and "Benediction" all in my favorite small poetry book, John Wain's Anthology of Modern Poetry (Hutchinson, 1963), ISBN 0090671317. It's out of print and not easy to find, even used (here are the listings on Amazon UK Marketplace). I bought it in 1988 at the University of Nigeria and it has been one of my most treasured books all this time. It's a superb collection, and if you can lay your hands on a copy, I suggest you do so.

Well, I've put in that promised labor, and here is "Benediction" on line. And yes, I've gone on about that Wain book, mentioning it yesterday as well. What can I say? It's worth all the repeated mention, except that you can't buy it anymore, it seems. But I had an idea yesterday. Soon, I'll post the table of contents here, with links to on-line versions of the poems where possible. This way you can at least enjoy Wain's marvelous selection without suffering through my Quotīdiē ramblings into the fathomless future.

Here is Wain on Kunitz:

"Benediction" and "The War against the Trees" are good examples of Stanley Kunitz's open, lyrical style, and need no comment....

And surely you agree, reading "Benediction". Who says good poetry has to be inscrutable?

Watch this space for more from Wain. And read a Kunitz poem or two this weekend. It's quiet and very intelligent entertainment.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia