Hi MB – I’m glad you’re enjoying the discussion, and that poem. Your friend is O.K., I hope?
People want nature to be idyllic, damn it, and when it turns out not to be, blame nature rather than their own worldviews. I think our discomfort with carnivores and predation is a good measure of our estrangement from the natural world.
Dr. Omed – Yes, those two, plus Austerities and Charon’s Cosmology — I don’t think it’s your imagination that Simic began to imitate himself after that. I think Neruda had the right idea: completely reinvent one’s voice and style every few books. Not sure the modern American poetry establishment would tolerate that, though. Consistency is so rewarded.
My mother writes nature books, but has herself become a little uncomfortable with the “nature writer” label, especially since the genre has become so high-brow and so dominated by navel-gazers. Come to think of it, Simic’s criticism applies much more readily to contemporary nonfiction nature writers than to poets. At any rate, Mom tends to think of herself as a natural history writer or simply a naturalist-writer.
Interesting about the manholes. To write about a mystical experience is a kind of subterfuge, anyway, since words quite literally fail.
Good point, though as poets we come up against the incommensurability of world with language in every line we write. The mystical experience or any other state of heightened awareness is not necessarily more immune to accurate description than a more supposedly mundane experience. The secret to writing good poetry is learning to cultivate a state of continual surprise (which may or may not be what Cady May was talking about).
Finally, I can’t believe you went for that Jimenez quote, because I actually considered including it in the post before it got too long! (Jimenez really should be much more widely known. He was simply overshadowed by Lorca in the American imagination, which seems to have room for only one great Spanish poet.)