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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Amy Lowell's THE CONGRESSIONAL LIBRARY in light of Parkland, and SCHOOL PEOPLE Book Winner


Thursday morning while sipping coffee and semi-watching the news, I came across a poem by Amy Lowell in What’s O’Clock (Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1925), winner of the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

The words imprinted themselves in my mind and heart as I turned my attention to an interview with an articulate, grief-stricken father. Fred Guttenburg’s beautiful 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was shot in the back with an assault rifle in a hall in her Parkland, Florida high school on Valentine’s Day. Her spinal cord was severed, and 16 other beautiful lives were gone in an instant.

“We start each day at the cemetery,” Mr. Guttenburg said. “That’s what we do now.”

Amy Lowell’s “The Congressional Library” was not written about a school shooting. But its images spoke to me in the midst of our collective sadness and outrage – and the ability/mandate to respond lies in the halls of Congress. Here is an excerpt.


From THE CONGRESSIONAL LIBRARY

by Amy Lowell (1874-1925)


This is America,
This vast, confused beauty,
This staring, restless speed of loveliness,
Mighty, overwhelming, crude, of all forms,
Making grandeur out of profusion,
Afraid of no incongruities,
Sublime in its audacity,
Bizarre breaker of moulds,
Laughing with strength,
Charging down on the past,
Glorious and conquering,
Destroyer, builder,
Invincible pith and marrow of the world,
An old world remaking,
Whirling into the no-world of all-coloured light.

But behind the vari-coloured hall?
The entrails, the belly,
The blood-run veins, the heart and viscera,
What of these?
Only at night do they speak,
Only at night do the voices rouse themselves and speak.
There are words in the veins of this creature,
There are still notes singing in its breast:
Silent voices, whispering what it shall speak,
Frozen music beating upon its pulses.
These are the voices of the furious dead who never die,
Furious with love and life, unquenchable,
dictating their creeds across the vapours of time.
This is the music of the Trumpeters of the Almighty
Weeping for a lost estate,
Sounding to a new birth which is to-morrow.
Hark! This hurricane of music has no end,
The speech of these voices has neither end nor beginning;
They are inter-riven as the colours of the sky
Over the graveyards of ten thousand generations. …



For notes about this poem, click here. For a copy of the entire poem, click here, and for more on Amy Lowell at poets.org, click here.

Thanks to all who came by week before last to celebrate the release of SCHOOL PEOPLE (Wordsong) and enjoy an interview with Lee Bennett Hopkins. I’m delighted to announce that the giveaway winner is…

***Catherine Flynn***

The past 10 days have reminded us that many School People are selfless servants– heroes to us, though they likely wouldn’t describe themselves, or wouldn’t have described themselves, in such terms. “Greater love has no one than this…” (John 15:13)

And I am so proud of those young people turning shock and sorrow into activism – they are amazing. Congress, quite simply, has failed them. Yet they are willing to face professional politicians with unblinking resolve and in the harshest glare of the public arena (and the sometimes-slime of social media). God bless their voices. Many will be voting this fall.

The thoughtful, talented, and active Elizabeth Steinglass has our Poetry Friday Roundup this week. Thanks, Liz.
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