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Gallery Ramblings


 A Folk Art Critic Looks at Four Poems   (September, 2014)

(1) An excerpt from "In the Beginning", a poem by Dylan Thomas.  Dylan never knew of hydrothermal vents but he got it right.  Scientists believe that these hot hydrothermal vents gave birth to the earliest forms of life on earth.

Ocean floor hydrothermal vent
Ocean floor hydrothermal vents surrounded
by primitive aquatic life forms

In the beginning was the mounting fire
That set alight the weathers from a spark,
A three-eyed, red-eyed spark, blunt as a flower,
Life rose and spouted from the rolling seas,
Burst in the roots, pumped from the earth and rock
The secret oils that drive the grass.


(2) Stanza thirty two from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass".  This is a fifty-stanza poem with many memorable passages. As far as living with the animals, Walt probably had pets and farm animals in mind.

Henri Rousseau painting
Painting by Henri Rousseau - Henri rides
the placid tiger. But does he dare get off?


I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.


(3) This is Canadian Mark Strand's poem "Keeping Things Whole". Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, said "You could not step twice into the same river" because all is flux. Mark thinks that if he keeps moving he can somehow minimize this flux.

Space walk
The astronaut moves in space but nothing
fills the space he left. There was nothing
there before so things keep whole.

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.


(4) "The End of the World" a poem by Archibald MacLeish poses the question "Can we entertain and amuse ourselves into oblivion"?

Surrealists' Circus
Surrealists' Circus
a painting by Hank Grebe

Quite unexpectedly, as Vasserot
The armless ambidextrian was lighting
A match between his great and second toe,
And Ralph the lion was engaged in biting
The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum
Pointed, and Teeny was about to cough
In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb
Quite unexpectedly the top blew off:
And there, there overhead, there, there hung over
Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes,
There in the starless dark, the poise, the hover,
There with vast wings across the cancelled skies,
There in the sudden blackness the black pall
Of nothing, nothing, nothing - nothing at all.