Moving from the classics to prize-winning contemporary poets: Morri Creech & Steven Brown.
We first published Morri Creech in The Journal of Contemporary Photography. John Wood then invited him to create a collection of poems for two books to be published with the work of Robert ParkeHarrison, Listening to the Earth and The Book of Life (with Shana Parkeharrison). This collection of 20 poems were subsequently published in Field Knowledge (Waywiser Press, 2006), which won the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. In 2014, Creech was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
The Music of Farewell
BY MORRI CREECH
Descending for the last time to the underworld, The soul of Orpheus addresses the audience.
What sense in listening to the sun-shot wind
croon through the autumn branches, once the song
behind the song is finished? Always you listened
with your heads tilted toward the absolute
as if the gods would sing to you, while the long
phrase of my sorrow held your world together,
your world of stripped fields and the ripening fruit
that weighs each thick bough earthward. Everywhere
you turned, the lavish music of farewell
lent consequence to things, so that desire
itself became fulfillment to your ear.
And though the mist that swept the cold laurel
was neither Apollo stroking Daphne's hair
nor Ceres weeping at the doors of hell,
though nothing I sang could raise Eurydice
up from the mute depths again, note by note,
it makes no difference now for me to say
the gods are silent, or that the world seems less
for what the hours and seasons claim from us.
More than the sounds that set the stones and trees
in place, and that arrange both shade and light,
a sad music ripens in the heart; caught
between oblivion and paradise,
it enters the world as loss, though in such ways
that the cadences of grief resound as praise.
And so God spun the wind to tick time forward.
It teased gold from the leaf, flung spores and seeds.
The beasts' fur billowed; long-legged shore birds
swung their hunger above a froth of reeds.
The restless trees leaned, bent, all pitch and wring.
Not yet the serpent's tryst in the grass; not yet
Abel slain in the field, the Lord's voice calling.
Still, the earth toiled toward its purposes:
and seethe of larvae started in the mud.
Rain scoured the stone to spill its mineral dust.
Straight rivers cut their convoluted maze.
And as the mouse twitched in the owl's long gaze
God wept, and wept for the mosquito's lust
as it rose up toward the heaven of the blood.
Steven Brown is a poet (finalist for the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize), photography critic, and utopian scholar who writes for some of the world's leading photographic publishers, including multiple titles for 21st Editions. He was selected as one of the Best New Poets of 2010 and is currently working on his doctoral dissertation at Harvard University.
BY STEVEN BROWN
Tongue, you've loosened up the cry
in my head like a bird's, or like a bird
you've tried the touch that a sky
and breath can melody with Xesh.
Bone, it has been worth it, yes?-the breaks
that as a boy reversed the music
of our motion, and taught our body
sincerity of awe with every step
against the universe of fated falls.
Eyes, what have we seen
that wouldn't stir or bend the brain
of The Architect's mother,
whose tooth Wrst struck the egg,
the egg that still feels
like wonder in our hands?
let us raise the egg to our lips,
kiss its shell until we've broken through
to kiss her wings, her face. Nothing
is exempt from our embrace.
The Angel Oaks
Our fathers called it Heaven. Their fathers,
the Vault. Whatever the vernacular,
all chambers have one. And so the heart?
And so the heart. Our fathers called it
Temple of the Faithful Bones. Their fathers,
Dwelling Place of the Lord.
We call it, ungracefully, the cardiac arrest.
The atrophy and stress of the valves,
the veins' limp pump and stoppage, or else,
an attack. Our fathers called it failure.
Their fathers, the Fall. Whatever it is,
it breaks apart the wall and vault together.
A thousand thousand bloodless branches
reach but cannot reach. It never was their fault.
Born without simple skin to keep pace
with loneliness and pain, love's sudden rush,
their end was written from the start.