Eco-poetics, Berkeley, Spring Rain by Robert Hass, and my Angel Boy

On March 2, 1981

Thirty-two years ago I was sixty pounds heavier than I am today. I lost a lot of that weight on March 23rd when I finally gave birth, but on March 2, I was nesting, adding final touches to the nursery. Back in those days, amniocentesis and tests to determine sex weren’t the norm and I had no scientific proof — but I knew absolutely for sure —  I was going to have a boy. I knew it from the very beginning.  I had no doubt.

This isn’t my Angel Boy’s birthday tribute; that’ll happen later.

I’m just so very proud of him and all he’s accomplished and it seems like a good day for a couple of poems. Not by me, though.

UC Berkeley hosted an Eco-Poetics Conference last week and my son was invited to participate.

He got his Ph.D. last year from Yale. His dissertation also was due in March — March is an important month — his diss focuses on Goethe, Stifter, and Benjamin.  It incorporates his love for nature and philosophy.

Eco-poetics

The term ecopoetics has become increasingly important to scholars and poets alike. It is certainly a critical moment for the field and practice.

The conference addressed these topics: What is ecopoetics? What representational strategies and sociopolitical commitments might characterize this practice? How might we periodize ecopoetics and situate its modes of cultural production?

My son was lucky enough to meet Robert Hass at the conference. Hass served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997. He won the 2007 National Book Award and shared the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for the collection Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005.

Enjoy a couple poems by Robert Hass…

Spring Rain

Now the rain is falling, freshly, in the intervals between sunlight,a Pacific squall started no one knows where, drawn east as the drifts of
warm air make a channel;it moves its own way, like water or the mind,and spills this rain passing over. The Sierras will catch it as last snow
flurries before summer, observed only by the wakened marmots at ten
thousand feet,and we will come across it again as larkspur and penstemon sprouting
along a creek above Sonora Pass next August,

where the snowmelt will have trickled into Dead Man’s Creek and the
creek spilled into the Stanislaus and the Stanislaus into the San Joaquin
and the San Joaquin into the slow salt marshes of the bay.

That’s not the end of it: the gray jays of the mountains eat larkspur seeds,
which cannot propagate otherwise.

To simulate the process, you have to soak gathered seeds all night in the acids of coffee

and then score them gently with a very sharp knife before you plant them
in the garden.

You might use what was left of the coffee we drank in Lisa’s kitchen
visiting.

There were orange poppies on the table in a clear glass vase, stained
near the bottom to the color of sunrise;

the unstated theme was the blessedness of gathering and the blessing of
dispersal—

it made you glad for beauty like that, casual and intense, lasting as long
as the poppies last.

The Failure of Buffalo to Levitate 

Millard Fillmore died here.
His round body is weighted by marble angels
He lies among the great orators of the Iroquois.

Paint does not arrest the tradebook houses
In their elegant decay. They peel
Like lizards in the dying avenues of elm.

Gentle enough, night drifts
Above the yellow bursts of aspen in the park.
Something innocent and reptilian

Suffers here, cumbrously.
The souls of the wives of robber barons
Are imprisoned in the chandeliers.
http://www.poetryfoundation.org

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