Tuesday

Reading The Marks


I've just about finished my study of Donald Hall's essays on poetry.  I am quite pleased with myself in that I have been able to read him all the way through despite his many academic  prejudices.  They show themselves at every turn.  Oh he is clever and disguises them well ...all the same.  But he has much that has been interesting to me so I'm glad for the deep breathe I stop and take that allows me to move through his pages.

Like most of us, he often reveals himself in his absences, his exclusions.  Brautigan is never mentioned.  He so seldom is by anyone.  Seldom?  Let's make that never.  He wasn't part of the Beats.  He wasn't Academic. He was the poet of The Love Generation. And quite possibly one of the most powerful poets of the 20th century. I consider Trout Fishing in America essentially a prose poem.  And if it is not a masterwork I do not know what is.

Back when I was a backpacker it was the one book I always packed. Only one and only that one. Not that I did much reading on the trail but when I did there he was. And that was really the point, that he was there. Weight is such a primary consideration for a backpacker: every gram of every ounce counted. Giving his small book those few precious ounces of weight was more about the inclusion of a significant talisman than having a bit of a read after the fire was lite and the boots were off.  And walking the trail itself was walking a poem.

A line scratched into stone, a cairn, a smoke signal.  A poem.  All ways in which we leave marks for the others in our tribe. And how do we know ourselves to be of any particular tribe?  Simple...we can read the marks.