A Place for Poetry?

When was the last time you read a poem?

Yeah, me too.

Poetry is kind of like colonics. Probably good for me, but I can find all kinds of reasons not to go there.

Poetry, colonics, it's all the same... (image from rubmint.com)

Poetry, colonics, it’s all the same… (image from rubmint.com)

I think the closest some of us come to poetry in our daily life is the last-minute Hallmark card-buying mission. Here’s one for the ages:

“If I’d never met you,
I wouldn’t feel the pain
Of losing your sweet love;
I wouldn’t feel insane.”

And that is why “poetry” gets consigned to the scrap heap in favor of alternatives such as this one suggested by The Oatmeal


We read all day long. We check the headlines. Dabble in celebrity gossip (oh come on, admit it, you’ve gone to tmz.com, too!) Some of us (who are not doing more important tasks like raising children or curing cancer) read books. But how often do we read a poem?

If it wasn’t for The New Yorker with its palatably brief and deliciously enigmatic poetry selections tucked in amidst the cartoons we all read first, my answer to that question would normally be “never”.

Grab a New Yorker, read a poem (image from newyorker.archives.com)

Grab a New Yorker, read a poem (image from newyorker.archives.com)

But something happened recently to change that. I had a head-on collision with a poem that grabbed me and won’t let go. I was reading Watership Down, of all things, a sweet book that opens each chapter with a literary quote. One of them was from “Hurt Hawks”, a poem by Robinson Jeffers. I looked it up, and was gobsmacked. Here it is:


Hurt Hawks




The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,
No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.
He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.
He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him   
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,
The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.
You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.


I’d sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk; but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bones too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.
We had fed him for six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance. I gave him the lead gift in the twilight. What fell was relaxed,
Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.

little white space

There is very little about Robinson Jeffers that resonates with me. Other than his hot-in-a-Sam-Shepard-way good looks and his very cool house.

Robinson Jeffers (image from english.illinois.edu)

Robinson Jeffers (image from english.illinois.edu)

Jeffers' Tor House and Hawk Tower in Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA where he lived and wrote. (image from torhouse.org)

Jeffers’ Tor House and Hawk Tower in Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA where he lived and wrote. (image from torhouse.org)

Jeffers (1887-1962 was the son of a Presbyterian minister but veered off into a self-made philosophy he called Inhumanism which celebrated the primacy of the natural world and rejected human solipsism. He seemed to reject humans almost altogether; other than wife and lifelong love, Una Kuster and their twin sons, Jeffers lived a mostly solitary life. His expression of isolationist politics during WWII toppled his popular reputation. I doubt that he much cared.

Una Kuster Jeffers, wife and muse (image from poetic appetite.blogspot.com)

Una Kuster Jeffers, wife and muse (image from poetic appetite.blogspot.com)

What is it about this poem for me? As a keeper of chickens, hawks are my sworn enemy, yet I felt a deep affinity for the hawk portrayed in Jeffers’ poem. If it is possible that the words of a poem can be so powerful as to make us love our enemies, then I think I need to sit up and take notice. Like it or not, I’m going to occasionally substitute a foray into poetry for my visits to tmz.com, and when I find poems that astound me as this one did, I’m going to force you to read it, too! When you think about it, it’s not really that far from poultry to poetry, right?

image from savagechickens.com

image from savagechickens.com

About polloplayer

Empty nester searching for meaning of life through the occasional chicken epiphany.
This entry was posted in Music/Art/Literature/Culture and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A Place for Poetry?

  1. Ang says:

    Comic is from The Oatmeal which I obsess over. Does that count as poetry? My New Yorker mag is my go-to poem source. Good enough? FINE. Will read what you post…do I get extra credit?😬

  2. Katherine says:

    No Shel Silverstein? I probably haven’t read much poetry since childhood:

    Oh, I am a chickie who lives in an egg.
    but I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
    The hens they all cackle, the roosters all beg,
    But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
    For I hear all the talk of pollution and more
    As the people all shout and the airplanes roar.
    So I’m staying in here
    where it’s safe
    and it’s warm.

  3. dizzyguy says:

    The line “The curs of the day come and torment him…” is special to me as it recalls the experience I have every time I am 15 minutes late serving dinner to Chloe and Soho. But I digress; have tried my whole life to read, understand, enjoy, whatever! poetry and have failed each time. Only hope was when I heard other people who do enjoy it admit that they only read, understand, etc. one poem in several. So hope remains. (Unfortunately, not that Hope)

    • Katherine says:

      Ah, speaking of Hope and poetry, does this Emily Dickinson not resonate? (Although I suppose she did ask for a crumb now and then.)

      Hope is the thing with feathers –
      That perches in the soul –
      And sings the tune without the words –
      And never stops – at all –

      And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
      And sore must be the storm –
      That could abash the little Bird
      That kept so many warm –

      I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
      And on the strangest Sea –
      Yet – never – in Extremity,
      It asked a crumb – of me.

  4. tdevir says:

    Nice post. The only poetry I seem to read these days is Dr. Seuss! But I do love the Oatmeal 🙂

    Did you ever fly a kite in bed? Did you ever walk with ten cats on your head? Did you ever milk this kind of cow? Well, we can do it. We know how. If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.

  5. Phyllis says:

    Just read a lovely poem by Harriet B Stowe from Pilgrim’s Progress called Peace, I think. Look it up

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