I seek more obscure, less crowded places.
My family knows I will wander off in the early mornings, sometimes for several hours, while they do things like sleep in. I will stretch out with the GPS device as my dear friend to do something that inspires me like nothing else.
I seek former residences of writers.
I hadn't realized Worcester, Massachusetts, held such treasures as the one I found on one of my early morning expeditions. There, at 4 Woodford Street, is the home Stanley Kunitz lived in as he hovered right on the edge of adulthood.
A plaque marked the home's prestigious history.
Stanley Kunitz was a Pulitzer prize winner, a poet laureate for the United States at age 95. That is not a typo, when he was ninety-five years old and still active in his writing and publishing, he served as poet laureate of the United States.
I imagined him looking out over the neighborhood in those days before the depression. What did it look like then? What was his take on his industrial but education rich hometown? What were the sounds and smells of the neighborhood as compared with today?
Stanley Kunitz has a body of work that is multi-faceted and layered, it seems like a joke for me to try to even begin to define him as a poet.
"A poet needs to keep his wilderness alive inside him. To remain a poet after forty requires an awareness of your darkest Africa, that part of yourself that will never be tamed.”
"...few young poets [are] testing their poems against the ear. They're writing for the page, and the page, let me tell you, is a cold bed.”
"“Some poems present themselves as cliffs that need to be climbed. Others are so defensive that when you approach their enclosure you half expect to be met by a snarling dog at the gate. Still others want to smother you with their sticky charms.”
and this poem, The Layers, is one I want to have read at my funeral someday:
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being abides,
from which I struggle not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look before I can gather strength to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling toward the horizon and the slow fires trailing from the abandoned camp-sites, over which the scavenger angels wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind,
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn.
with my will intact to go wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered and I roamed through the wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice directed me:
-Live in the layers, not on the litter-
Though I lack the art to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter in my book of transformations is already written.
I am not done with my changes.”
(You may find this poem and many other evocative poetry of Stanley Kunitz in his Collected Poems.)
What favorite writer's home would you enjoy visiting?
Julie Jordan Scott is a writer, creative life coach, speaker, performance poet, Mommy and mixed-media artist whose Writing Camps and Writing Playgrounds permanently transform people's creative lives. Watch for the announcement of new programs coming Spring, 2014 and beyond.
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