Friday, October 8, 2010

"Scholarly rows of sycamores"

Always wondering what's left besides us

and how much time, I stare at the bright
fall of morning...

I can't tell you how much
you would like today, the pomegranates
heaped in baskets, air drowsy with wood-smoke...

You'd like
the burnt-siena of the cleared fields,
the pang of yellow shivering through the vines,
scholarly rows of sycamores leading you down
Such light.

Paul Monette, teacher at Milton 
"To GB from Tuscany," 1990
National Book Award, 1992

JS Bach, Sarabande in D major
Cello Suite, BWV 1012


  1. I hope that these extracts exhibit the poem's susceptibility of being read for its miraculous vitality evoked by a very handsome ambiguity of voice; this work can be read as an internal monologue, as a voice for or from someone in memory or in the present, or to an ideal figure without any antecedent. Recalled as he may be, almost as a polemicist, Monette was extremely gifted in these ambiguities, and one can see that much more clearly today. One of his great services to the language as well as to his era, was to conserve this vitality not merely as a testament, but to sustain its positive force. The poem clearly does not 'need' the sarabande or the picture, but one finds the 3 works converging in his 'country road with a promise that nothing ends.' By such allusion, in any case, Monette does the identical thing being done here, only rather better. :)

  2. I don't know much about poetic theory or stucture, but this poem makes me want to read more poetry.
    Thanks for finding and presenting it.

  3. Apart from persuading Gov. Perry to make good on his threat to withdraw Texas from the Union, I can't imagine a greater reward for blogging than this. If it isn't clear, I published only extracts from the full poem, which can be read at the site of the Michigan Quarterly Review. Thank you for your note.;cc=mqrarchive;rgn=full%20text;idno=act2080.0027.004;didno=act2080.0027.004;view=image;seq=00000088;node=act2080.0027.004%3A11