Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kenneth Fearing (1902-1961) - Selected Poems

Kenneth Fearing
Continuous Performance


The place seems strange, more strange than ever, and the times are still more out of joint;
Perhaps there has been some slight mistake?

It is like arriving at the movies late, as usual, just as the story ends:
There is a carnival on the screen. It is a village in springtime, that much is clear. But why has the heroine suddenly slapped his face? And what does it mean, the sequence with the limousine and the packed valise? Very strange.
Then love wins. Fine. And it is the end. O.K.
But how do we reach that carnival again? And when will that springtime we saw return once more? How, and when?

Now, where a moment ago there was a village square, with trees and laughter, the story resumes itself in arctic regions among blinding snows. How can this be?
What began in the long and shining limousine seems closing now, fantastically, in a hansom cab.
The amorous business that ended with happiness forever after is starting all over again, this time with a curse and a pistol shot. It is not so good.

Nevertheless, though we know it all and cannot be fooled, though we know the end and nothing deceives us,
Nevertheless we shall stay and see what it meant, the mystery of the packed valise,
Why curses change at last to kisses and to laughter in a limousine (for this is fixed, believe me, fixed),
How simply and how swiftly arctic blizzards melt into blowing trees and a village fair.

And stay to see the Hydra’s head cut off, and grown again, and incredibly multiplied,
And observe how Sisyphus fares when he has once more almost reached the top,
How Tantalus again will nearly eat and drink.

And learn how Alph the sacred river flows, in Xanadu, forever to a sunless sea,
How, from the robes of simple flesh, fate emerges from new and always more fantastic fate.

Until again we have the village scene. (And now we know the meaning fo the packed valise)
And it is a carnival again. In spring.

4 Comments:

At 10/13/2009 11:21 AM, Blogger Jason Crane said...

Wonderful. I just got a collection of Fearing's work from the Library of America. I can't remember where I heard about him, but I've fallen in love.

 
At 10/13/2009 12:01 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

That's the book I have, and from which I got this poem (from 1941). I've liked Fearing a long time. There was some work of his in an old MODERN POETS OF BRITAIN & AMERICA anthology I had from the 40s or 50s . . . and I had some of his stuff from the Internet . . . but now I'm so very pleased to have this little Selected from LOA.

He's such an interesting character in mid-century poetry. He just doesn't fit in any of the neat boxes people have made of that story.

The traditions are more interesting and more complex. His politics. His use of language. It's all quite fascinating.

 
At 10/13/2009 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"He just doesn't fit in any of the neat boxes people have made of that story."

Absolutely, John--he busts the boxes.

 
At 10/29/2009 1:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I discivered Fearing in the 70s and was immediately taken by his prescient use of Popular culture themes and tropes..Way ahead of his time..Nice to see the world catch up to him finally

 

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