Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mountain Plateau

When we read or write poetry, we are trying in one sense to find a tone of voice as well as specific language to reveal adequately what seems important to us. In another sense, we are not shaping at all, but shaped by what we write. We write to discover connections that exist on some shelf of the mind that we have not consciously visited.

What I am writing even now in prose seems unsatisfactory because the prose functions often only as a summary, a cold attempt "to explain" what can only be felt or hinted at with images or metaphor.

Warren's poem captures the frustration and sadness of the individual unable to communicate or establish common ground or community. The speaker does not seem to be merely referring to expressing or unleashing something inside himself:the crow is unitary but is not "one" with the rest of the picture presented. Individuality in a fallen world means that we hunger to be a part of a larger whole in ways that we lack the ability to express easily in language.

Mountain Plateau

by Robert Penn Warren

At the center of acres of snow-whiteness
The snag-oak reared, black and old, boughs
Crank. Topmost twigs--pen strokes, tangle, or stub--fretted
The ice-blue of sky. A crow,
On the highest black, frail, and sky-thrust support,


Its cry to the immense distance.

I hear the cry across the immense distance
Of the landscape of my heart.

That landscape now reduplicates, snow-white, the one
In which I once stood. At its center, too, the
Black snag stands.

A crow gleams there up-thrust against the blue sky.

I can make no answer
To the cry from the immense distance.

My eyes fill with tears. I have lived
Long without being able
To make adequate communication.

from Now and Then, 1978
Random House

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