Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: Raymond Carver
Raymond Carver is probably more known for his short stories than his poems, but he’s one of those writers—like Jim Harrison—who can do both fiction and poetry with skill.
Here’s a bit of his history from the NYT obit (he died in 1988):
Mr. Carver was born on May 25, 1938, in Clatskanie, Ore., to Clevie Raymond Carver, a sawmill worker, and the former Ella Beatrice Casey, a waitress. He was brought up in a gray tract house in Yakima, Wash., a mile from Bachelor Creek, where he began a lifelong love affair with fishing. Start in Storytelling
Frog, as he was nicknamed, used to sit at the foot of his parents’ bed and listen to his father read from Zane Grey books or tell his own tales of hunting and fishing.
Before long, the boy was telling his own stories, amateurish efforts at escapism that drew groans from the grown-up Carver when he recalled them in the 1988 interviews. It was not until he went to Chico State College in California in 1958 and took John Gardner’s creative writing course that he became serious about writing.
”He galvanized me,” Mr. Carver said. ”He told me who to read and helped me learn to write. He opened a door for me.”
It just so happens I picked up this book today, Carver’s Collected poems, titled All of US.
As I flipped through it, a poem jumped out at me, demanding I write this post immediately. So here it is. Enjoy!
It’s what the kids nowadays call weed. And it drifts
like clouds from his lips. He hopes no one
comes along tonight, or calls to ask for help.
Help is what he’s most short on tonight.
A storm thrashes outside. Heavy seas
with gale winds from the west. The table he sits at
is, say, two cubits long and one wide.
The darkness in the room teems with insight.
Could be he’ll write an adventure novel. Or else
a children’s story. A play for two female characters,
one of whom is blind. Cutthroat should be coming
into the river. One thing he’ll do is learn
to tie his own flies. Maybe he should give
more money to each of his surviving
family members. The ones who already expect a little
something in the mail first of each month.
Every time they write they tell him
they’re coming up short. He counts heads on his fingers
and finds they’re all surviving. So what
if he’d rather be remembered in the dreams of strangers?
He raises his eyes to the skylights where rain
hammers on. After a while—
who knows how long?—his eyes ask
that they be closed. And he closes them.
But the rain keeps hammering. Is this a cloudburst?
Should he do something? Secure the house
in some way? Uncle Bo stayed married to Aunt Ruby
for 47 years. Then hanged himself.
He opens his eyes again. Nothing adds up.
It all adds up. How long will this storm go on?