Just wanted to write you a quick note saying how much I enjoyed the March issue and especially “Brother, I’ve seen some” by Kabir. Reading it, I had one of those wonderful experiences where I immediately recalled another poem I have loved for a very long time:
I have often met the evil of living:
the gurgle of the strangled brook,
the papering of the parched leaf,
the fallen horse, dying.
Of good I found little more than the omen
disclosed by the divine Indifference:
the statue in the drowsing
noon, and the cloud, and the hawk soaring.
—Eugenio Montale, tr. by William Arrowsmith
Though the particulars of the paradoxes both poets employ come from very different cultures, religious traditions, and histories, they both ask what is the meaning of it all. Of course a fifteenth-century Indian poet and a twentieth-century Italian poet would take on this same subject. But still—their similarities and differences make for a very interesting comparison.
And while I’m at it, let me tell you how much I enjoy your monthly podcast. Please keep doing them. I always play the podcast twice, once while walking my dog and then again with the issue in hand, following along as you and the authors read the poems. In this month’s podcast [“Expert in Earth, Eager in Flesh,” March 2011] it was great that you chose not to edit out your surprise at Carolyn Forché’s having changed a couple of lines of her poem.
I also loved the poems by Gottfried Benn, especially “Beautiful Youth.” I’ve had a lot of fun showing it to a couple of acquaintances (ones with good senses of humor) who still somehow think poetry is only good for the expression of worn-out sentiments. Oh, a lovely poem about the beauty of youth, one thinks as he approaches the poem’s title and first lines. And then fairly quickly, as the poem accretes meaning, this feeling changes to horror, revulsion, and then amazement and joy—joy, if you give it to the right reader, that is. It’s one of those poems you can give to a new acquaintance to decide if you could be friends.
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