(Blumenkamp, J. A Fox for All Seasons4)

2. Essay: Hayden Carruth 1970s

Section
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
Chapter
1.9 Poems
Page
1.9.2

Carruth, like Lawrence’s ‘Snake’, says: “My poems, I think, exist in a state of tension between the love of natural beauty and the fear of natural nothingness or absurdity”1, but there is almost none of this tension in his poem, ‘Essay’, below. Here he doesn’t say whether there has been a struggle within us, nor if there are better or worse sides of our instincts and nurture; he just describes what is, and what has largely happened2: “They are going away”.

This desperately sad elegy for life on earth is contained in the wonderful ‘Poems that make Grown Men Cry’3 and it perhaps affected me more than crying, and I was, as was Carruth, left mute and “deadened”.

The poem’s structure is strange, with the first 16 lines really being an explanation, a foreword (the ‘Essay’ perhaps) and the poem not really beginning until “This has been the time of the finishing off of the animals”.

The poem forms a direct link with Anson Cameron’s elegy to birds and sounds of the bush near his birthplace in northern Victoria (1.1.1 Articles).

I don’t think there is anything more to say than silence.

 

Essay

So many poems about the deaths of animals.
Wilbur’s toad, Kinnell’s porcupine, Eberhart’s squirrel,
and that poem by someone – Hecht? Merrill? –
about cremating a woodchuck. But mostly
I remember the outrageous number of them,
as if every poet, I too, had written at least
one animal elegy; with the result that today
when I came to a good enough poem by Edwin Brock
about finding a dead fox at the edge of the sea
I could not respond; as if permanent shock
had deadened me. And then after a moment
I began to give way to sorrow (watching myself
sorrowlessly the while), not merely because
part of my being had been violated and annulled,
but because all these many poems over the years
have been necessary, – suitable and correct.

This has been the time of the finishing off of the animals.
They are going away – their fur and their wild eyes,
their voices. Deer leap and leap in front
of the screaming snowmobiles until they leap
out of existence. Hawks circle once or twice
around their shattered nests and then they climb
to the stars. I have lived with them fifty years,
we have lived with them fifty million years,
and now they are going, almost gone. I don’t know
if the animals are capable of reproach.
But clearly they do not bother to say good-bye.

 

1https://poetryarchive.org/poet/hayden-carruth/

2 Bradshaw, C., et. al. (17 authors). 2021. Understanding the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future. Frontiers in Conservation Science. January 13th. (Now, only 5% – at most – of the world’s vertebrates, by weight, are wild animals! See ‘SoE’ section).

3 Holden, A., and B. 2014. Poems that Make Grown Men Cry. Simon and Schuster, London, UK.

4 Blumenkamp, J. 2020. A Fox for All Seasons. Natural History Museum Wildlife Photography Competition. UK.

 

Environmental destruction is nothing new, it is just that Carruth sees the endgame.
Hopkins in 1879 wrote of his beloved trees in Binsey Poplars:
“My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled…”
and Wordsworth lamented in 1802 in The World is too much with us:
“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours…”

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1.9.2. Essay

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