52 SONGS

...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Russell Edson

Last Tuesday (April 29th), our local library held a community reading for the end of National Poetry Month. Anyone could come and share some poems. The librarian knows our family and knows I write poetry, so she asked if I'd participate. I said I would, but I didn't want to bring my own work to read. Instead, I chose a few poems I thought might work with a small-town crowd of poetry lovers.

When I arrived, a circle of chairs had been set up in the back corner of the library, with most occupied by people over sixty. Some read their own poems, some read those written by others. We got a Frost, a Kay Ryan, a Neruda, and "Richard Cory," by Edwin Arlington Robinson. Among my selection were two poems by Russell Edson.

I've just learned that Russell Edson died that same night, April 29th, after a long illness. I've only read a handful of his poems, but it's a beloved handful. Here's one that, when I shared it last week to a room full of strangers, elicited from them a subtle, wordless sound of recognition:
An Old Man’s Son
   
    There was an old man who had a kite for a son, which he would let up into the air attached to a string, when he had need to be alone.
    …And would watch this high bloom of himself, as something distant that will be close again…

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