Saturday, August 3, 2013

Solemn-sweet pipes

Sound spectrograph from UF's E&N Dept.

Garrison Keillor (of Prairie Home Companion and Writer's Almanac fame) is such an excellent curator of poetry. His Good Poems collections consistently surpass their titles' claim, and it might surprise you that Keillor never relies on the famous poets and canonical pieces. (But it shouldn't surprise you; American verse is in better shape than people give it credit.) You can turn page after page without seeing a familiar name (provided you're not in a creative writing masters' program), and when one of the more well-known poets does turn up, they are usually represented by a poem that you (and the anthologists) have skipped over.

One that caught my eye today in Good Poems: American Places was a little gem by Walt Whitman I'd never seen before. (Friends, I have sinned: I own Library of America's Whitman volume and have never actually read it cover-to-cover.) Seeing as it's a lazy summer Saturday (soon to be a hazy summer Sunday, and not much later a misty autumn Sunday), I thought I'd share it with you.

I Heard You Solemn-Sweet Pipes of the Organ
Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892)

I heard you solemn-sweet pipes of the organ as last Sunday morn I
   pass'd the church,
Winds of autumn, as I walk'd the woods at dusk I heard your
   long-stretch'd sighs up above so mournful,
I heard the perfect Italian tenor singing at the opera, I heard the
   soprano in the midst of the quartet singing;
Heart of my love! you too I heard murmuring low through one of the
   wrists around my head,
Heard the pulse of you when all was still ringing little bells last
   night under my ear.

Speaking of ringing little bells, the tinkling ground crickets have just woken up in Jersey and Pennsylvania to raise their strange tintinnabulations through the remainder of the summer and into October.

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