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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology
(1969)

Allen, Dick
[Editorial comment: the poet looks at space--inner and outer],   pp. [184]-193 PDF (10.1 MB)


Page 193


conquered Earth with telephone wires
and automobiles and bombs. Space we
can never fill. It, and the new planets
and the possibilities of other life-
inner and outer - can relieve
our sense of incredible culture staleness.
Perhaps one solution is in going
away from an increasingly two-dimensional,
campish, planned obsolescence
culture. Perhaps looking back at Earth
from the moon, or wherever, our
new realization, our mass popular
realization of how small man really is,
can make us spend our energies
in exploration rather than in wars. The
Bomb made Death a mass culture concept;
Space becomes a mass Escape and
Religion concept. At least that is the hope
of some of the kids. A vacation away
from Earth wouldn't really
be such a bad thing, after all.
Great poetry can always comment
beyond its immediate frame
of reference. Just as Robert Frost's
"Mending Wall" is useful in
understanding Berlin, so does his
"Birches" speak to the problems and
possibilities of space:
He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always
kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first,
with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to
the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles
with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and
snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a
snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree
could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going
and coming back.
One could do worse than be
a swinger of birches.
And one sees that to harp upon a
subject is not the same as to pluck
the strings.
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