Saturday, May 29, 2010

What We Talk About When We Talk About Raymond Carver

The answer: alcoholism and short stories. Not poetry.

But Carver did write poetry. And his second wife, who is still alive, is poet Tess Gallagher. His verse, like his short fiction, is very narrative, drawing on colloquial diction and stark, realistic imagery. I find myself more of a fan of his fiction (especially his story "A Small Good Thing"), but I think it's interesting that he wrote and published successfully in both mediums. Anyway, I'll leave it to you to judge. Below is one of his more well-known poems and one that I do like; despite its brutality, I think it taps into something very true about creating art out of ugly or tragic things.

Your Dog Dies

it gets run over by a van.
you find it at the side of the road
and bury it.
you feel bad about it.
you feel bad personally,
but you feel bad for your daughter
because it was her pet,
and she loved it so.
she used to croon to it
and let it sleep in her bed.
you write a poem about it.
you call it a poem for your daughter,
about the dog getting run over by a van
and how you looked after it,
took it out into the woods
and buried it deep, deep,
and that poem turns out so good
you're almost glad the little dog
was run over, or else you'd never
have written that good poem.
then you sit down to write
a poem about writing a poem
about the death of that dog,
but while you're writing you
hear a woman scream
your name, your first name,
both syllables,
and your heart stops.
after a minute, you continue writing.
she screams again.
you wonder how long this can go on.

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