I join with all the staff and board at the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine in expressing my profound sorrow at the death of Hayden Carruth, who died last night at his home in Munnsville, New York. His contribution to American poetry and to the life of this country was extraordinary.
by Hayden Carruth
Both of us had been close
to Joel, and at Joel's death
my friend had gone to the wake
and the memorial service
and more recently he had
visited Joel's grave, there
at the back of the grassy
cemetery among the trees,
"a quiet, gentle place," he said,
"befitting Joel." And I said,
"What's the point of going
to look at graves?" I went
into one of my celebrated
tirades. "People go to look
at the grave of Keats or Hart
Crane, they go traveling just to
do it, what a waste of time.
What do they find there? Hell,
I wouldn't go look at the grave of
Shakespeare if it was just
down the street. I wouldn't
look at—" And I stopped. I
was about to say the grave of God
until I realized I'm looking at it
all the time....
Hayden Carruth was the author of more than thirty books of poetry and winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Carruth was editor of Poetry magazine from 1949-1950. His last collection of work was Toward the Distant Islands, published by Copper Canyon Press.

Originally Published: September 30th, 2008

Emily Warn was born in San Francisco and grew up in California and Detroit. She earned degrees from Kalamazoo College and the University of Washington. Her full-length collections of poetry include The Leaf Path (1982), The Novice Insomniac (1996), and Shadow Architect (2008). She has published two chapbooks: The Book...

  1. September 30, 2008
     james hoch

    Goodybe beautiful Hayden Carrut,
    a profoundly original and profoundly American poet
    in the best sense of all those terms.

  2. October 1, 2008
     Don Share
  3. October 1, 2008
     Aaron Fagan

    I had a chance to meet Mr. Carruth in 2005 at Syracuse University where he used to teach. I used to work for Poetry and he asked me, "How much did they get?" And I laughed and said how much. And he shot a cold look and said, "They're ruined." In 1987, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Rita Dove won.

  4. October 1, 2008

    Carruth solved the riddle of how an anthologist should include his or her own work more graciously than anybody I know of, in that magnificent anthology "The Voice That Is Great Within Us."

  5. October 1, 2008
     Michael Wiegers

    Hayden will be deeply missed by many of us. His poems "were acts of love. I mean deeply felt gestures which continuously bestow upon us/ What we are." including this one from Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey. :
    “Why don’t you write me a poem that will prepare me for your death?” you said.
    It was a rare day here in our climate, bright and sunny. I didn’t feel like dying that day,
    I didn’t even want to think about it–my lovely knees and bold shoulders broken open,
    Crawling with maggots. Good Christ! I stood at the window and I saw a strange dog
    Running in the field with its nose down, sniffing the snow, zigging and zagging,
    And whose dog is that? I asked myself. As if I didn’t know. The limbs of the apple trees
    Were lined with snow, making a bright calligraphy against the world, messages to me
    From an enigmatic source in an obscure language. Tell me, how shall I decipher them?
    And a jay slanted down to the feeder and looked at me behind my glass and squawked.
    Prepare, prepare. Fuck you, I said, come back tomorrow. And here he is in this new
    gray and gloomy morning.
    We’re back to our normal weather. Death in the air, the idea of death settling around
    us like mist,
    And I am thinking again in despair, in desperation, how will it happen? Will you wake up
    Some morning and find me lying stiff and cold beside you in our bed? How atrocious!
    Or will I fall asleep in the car, as I nearly did a couple of weeks ago, and drive off the
    Into a tree? The possibilities are endless and not at all fascinating, except that I can’t
    Thinking about them, can’t stop envisioning that moment of hideous violence.
    Hideous and indescribable as well, because it won’t happen until it’s over. But not for
    For you it will go on and on, thirty years or more, since that’s the distance between us
    In our ages. The loss will be a great chasm with no bridge across it (for we both know
    Our life together, so unexpected, is entirely loving and rare). Living on your own–
    Where will you go? What will you do? And the continuing sense of displacement
    From what we’ve had in this little house, our refuge on our green or snowbound
    Hill. Life is not easy and you will be alive. Experience reduces itself to platitudes
    Including the one which says that I’ll be with you forever in your memories and
    I will. And also in hundreds of keepsakes, such as this scrap of a poem you are reading

  6. October 1, 2008
     Liz Washer

    I'm so sorry to read this, and grateful to have known of him and his work. Hayden's poem about my grandfather ("Marshall Washer") is, unsurprisingly, my all-time favorite.

  7. October 1, 2008
     Stephen Thorley

    I had the great good fortune to work with Hayden as a grad student in poetry-- he was a true man of letters, a gentle man disguised as a curmudgeon, and I cherish the time i spent in his presence, basking in his intellect and knowledge...

  8. October 3, 2008
     Jason Crane

    I just heard that Vermont Public Radio is doing a jazz tribute to Hayden Carruth tonight (10/3/08) at 10 p.m. ET. You can listen online.

  9. October 3, 2008
     Jason Crane

    I screwed up -- the jazz tribute to Carruth is at 9 p.m. ET.

  10. October 20, 2008
     Christina Rago

    Hayden and my father, Henry Rago 1915-1969) were great friends. I had the benefit of phone conversations and letters with Hayden in recent years back and forth to complete a "Collected Poems of Henry Rago" I edited. Hayden hoped I would find a publisher for the book and wrote a fine introduction to it. One could never have a truer friend than Hayden and his friendship to my father extended through the years to me, finding such love for our project together that I still feel it now, fierce and strong, as he pushed me to work. He was such a natural force though. His literary gifts were shared with all of us in a spirit of generosity and deep understanding.