Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Galwell Kinnell poem for Thanksgiving


Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

Galway Kinnell

from A New Selected Poems (Mariner Books)

This was the poem on the back of my mother's funeral card. She was a high school English teacher, among many other things, so she would have laughed had she seen that the poem, as short as it is, was mangled by the printer, who tried to fix the grammar.

What do I give thanks for? For being part of all this this.

We live in a wonderful world.

Mr. Kinnell's poems resonate, as does his voice.
Always worth a listen.


Ima Wizer said...

I wish you'd been my science teacher.....I woulda liked it ever so much more!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for whatever what is and reminding me of this poem. I will share my favorite Kinnell poem with you:

St Francis and the Sow
by Galway Kinnell

The bud
stands for all things,
even those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;

as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

doyle said...


Maybe, maybe not--so much depends on the curriculum, the state test, the period (few kids interested at 7:45 AM)--but thanks for the thought.

I loved my favorite teacher, a chem teacher, but there were days I'd much rather be anywhere else than in a classroom.


I love that poem. Every time I think I might have a favorite Kinnell poem, I read another, then get confused.

I heard him read years ago. A group of us formed The High Spark of Low Heeled Boys while undergrads, pushed on by a professor. We managed to get Kinnell to come, as well as a couple of other poets, but ended up in the red, owing money.

We had no clue about running a reading, but Mr. Kinnell was unbelievably gracious about it, despite have flown to Ann Arbor to give the reading. His voice is as powerful as his words. A wonderful man.

Anonymous said...

The poem "St Francis and the Sow" always speaks to me about teaching. All students, like all things, flower from within, of self blessing.

What a treat to have been able to meet Kinnell and hear him read. I had dinner with Robert Pinsky once at a workshop, and he was charming but I wouldn't call him gracious as he asked a man in the front row at the reading to relocate to a further seat. When I asked him over dinner why he made the request, he said he thought the guy would be a sleeper and he didn't want him in the front.