Human Flower Project
Monday, October 29, 2007
Jon Anderson: One Cold Flower
Thanks to friend and poet Patrick Collins for alerting us to the death of his former teacher, whose one line—the last in the poem below—has stayed with us for twenty-one years. We had forgotten the flower that leads to it.
Back in 1986 we were participating in a poetry reading at the Austin History Center and came upon the beautifully hand-printed broadside of a poem by Jon Anderson. Never heard of the fellow. But his poem had an enticing title so we read it, and the final line lodged like a piece of shrapnel.
Yesterday we learned that Anderson died October 20 in Arizona, age 67. That’s young, isn’t it?
“My prime motive for writing is self-confrontation,” he told an interviewer once. “My poetry isn’t for everyone. It’s for people like myself who want to contend with themselves.”
Thanks to Patrick Collins (a contender). Years ago, we quoted the shrapnel line to him and he reminded us of its author; Anderson had been his teacher at the University of Arizona. May Patrick and everybody else be consolable at last, if not today.
Dahlia after first frost
Photo: Craig Cramer/Ellis Hollow
The Secret Of Poetry
When I was lonely, I thought of death.
When I thought of death I was lonely.
I suppose this error will continue.
I shall enter each gray morning
Delighted by frost, which is death,
& the trees that stand alone in mist.
When I met my wife I was lonely.
Our child in her body is lonely.
I suppose this error will go on & on.
Morning I kiss my wife’s cold lips,
Nights her body, dripping with mist.
This is the error that fascinates.
I suppose you are secretly lonely,
Thinking of death, thinking of love.
I’d like, please, to leave on your sill
Just one cold flower, whose beauty
Would leave you inconsolable all day.
The secret of poetry is cruelty.