Friday, April 22, 2016

npm pmmu #22: copland and crane

Happy Earth Day, everyone!  It's hard to remember amid the delegate-counting of primary season, in April with its too many nasty anniversaries, that Americans are also known for a rugged cheerfulness--and yet that's exactly how this week in Maryland felt.  It's also how this work by Aaron Copland sounds.  I've had it on my mind for a few days.

I'm pleased to say that it wasn't hard to find a similarly cheerful, very American piece of poetry to go with it.  Perhaps Aaron Copland even took his inspiration from Hart Crane (as well the well-known Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts.")  Crane's language is wild and loose and, like its subject, uncivilized (in the best possible meaning of that word).  However, contrary to the 1930 reviewer of this book-length poem, I do not find that "its effectiveness will be found on analysis, to lie in its lack of intelligibility."

from The Bridge: The Dance || Hart Crane

I left the village for dogwood. By the canoe
Tugging below the mill-race, I could see
Your hair’s keen crescent running, and the blue
First moth of evening take wing stealthily.

What laughing chains the water wove and threw.
I learned to catch the trout’s moon whisper; I
Drifted how many hours I never knew,
But, watching, saw that fleet young crescent die,—

And one star, swinging, take its place, alone,
Cupped in the larches of the mountain pass—
Until, immortally, it bled into the dawn.
I left my sleek boat nibbling margin grass . . .

I took the portage climb, then chose
A further valley-shed; I could not stop.
Feet nozzled wat’ry webs of upper flows;
One white veil gusted from the very top.

O Appalachian Spring! I gained the ledge;
Steep, inaccessible smile that eastward bends
And northward reaches in that violet wedge
Of Adirondacks!—wisped of azure wands,

Over how many bluffs, tarns, streams I sped!
—And knew myself within some boding shade:—
Grey tepees-tufting the blue knolls ahead,
Smoke swirling through the yellow chestnut glade . . .

A distant cloud, a thunder-bud—it grew,
That blanket of the skies: the padded foot
Within,—I heard it; ’til its rhythm drew,
—Siphoned the black pool from the heart’s hot root!

This section of Crane's poem is called "Powhatan's Daughter," not a cheerful story in itself, but what the reviewer calls "the piling up on startling and widely disparate word-structures so that for the mind the cumulative result of skyscrapers for the eye when looked on through a mist"--I find that thrilling and irresistible...not unlike spring in Appalachia or anywhere that I've lived.

Which means that I might disagree with the Shakers about simplicity.  : )

Simple Gifts

Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup, where things tend to be richly complex as well as delicious!   The Progressive Poem, meanwhile, has reached Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge.


  1. I enjoyed scrolling back through your other music posts. I hope you have recovered from being overworked/overbooked earlier! Loved hearing about an early Earth Day supporter, and I did recognize "Cool" immediately. :-) Terrific pairing for today. (Saw Noises Off yesterday -- they did an amazing job!! If you haven't, I hope you can see it Saturday.)

  2. Nice pairing for Earth Day! Haven't read Crane in eons. He *is* pretty wild and loose. Love "Simple Gifts" too, delightful. :)

  3. Thanks for the education, the "cubism" is striking. Fun to read the 1930's book review. Thanks for including the link. Isn't it fun where poetry can take you?

  4. Thanks for the introduction to this poem. It is bursting with delicious words and phrases! the trout’s moon whisper
    Feet nozzled wat’ry webs of upper flows
    wisped of azure wands
    from the heart’s hot root


  5. Thank you for Applaachian Spring and a canoe ride/hike with Hart Crane! Did my soul good!

  6. Interesting poem....I'd not come across it before, but like Diane, that phrase "the trout’s moon whisper" stays with me!

  7. I'm near Appalachian now, staying at the Powhatan resort, and we visited Jamestown. So many reminders. This area is every bit as beautiful as that poem. I can attest. :-)


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!