Clairvoyant with Hunger: Essays on James Dickey, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Etc.

By Laurence Lieberman | Go to book overview

“Bari, Old and Young”

The old women of Bari near the sea sit in the small shadows
of open doors. Their faces are beautifully darkened in the sunlight.
Their hair is gray enough. They have seen the wars. They have
known the young Germans blundering and falling out of the sky
like poisoned moths. The young men in Bari today swagger and
smirk as though no one had ever lived before, as though no one
had ever died. Forever titivating their lank hair in the Adriatic
breezes, voluptuously caressing their own armpits, they love to be
told they are the lost youth, unemployed and betrayed by The
System. Their motorcycles whinny insanely along the dark streets,
and they are interested in women only to frighten them. They are
too mindless to be skillful thieves. But the old women of Bari in
their open doors know that young men will find something else
to do, and I walk in this city as frightened as an old sea woman
startled by moths.

Once the old city of Bari rose and gathered its compan-
ions out of the sea. But the new city, a growth of our present
desperate century, squats a little inland, companionless. It is no
place for solitude. Already the stony faces of new tall buildings are
beginning to crumble.

On my last day here, I will walk carefully through the
barren places and find the past again, the old city where I can
stand solitary beside the noble churches. And beyond the old city,
even beyond the past, there is the sea itself, the ancient freshness
of the natural world that God, stirring in His loneliness and
unapproached in His light, breathed upon. The fragrance of the
water moves heavily and slowly with mussel shells and the sighs
of drowned men. There is nothing so heavy with earth as the sea’s
breath and the breath of fresh wilderness, the camomilla fields near

-129-

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Clairvoyant with Hunger: Essays on James Dickey, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Etc.
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iv
  • Clairvoyant with Hunger vi
  • Part 1 - James Dickey, Poems from the Eagle’S Mile 1
  • “the Eagle’S Mile” 2
  • “weeds” 7
  • “expanses” 10
  • “farmers” 13
  • “form” 16
  • “poem” 20
  • Homage to the Unburied: a Column - “sleepers” 30
  • “snow Thickets” 35
  • “the Three” 38
  • “the Six” 42
  • “circuit” 46
  • “eagles” 49
  • “night Bird” 51
  • “daybreak” 53
  • Warrior, Visionary, Natural Philosopher: James Dickey’S to the White Sea 56
  • Part 2 - James Wright’S Prose Poems 73
  • Of Two Sublimities: Love Poems “a Small Grove” 74
  • “in Gallipoli” 77
  • “the Gift of Change” 82
  • “flowering Olives” 87
  • “camomilla” 90
  • “may Morning” 96
  • “piccolini” 99
  • “regret for a Spider Web” 103
  • “the Snail at Assisi” 108
  • “the Sunlight Falling at Peace in Moret-Sur-Loing” 114
  • Paradigm for Prose Poems 118
  • “the Secret of Light” 119
  • “bari, Old and Young” 129
  • Part 3 - W.S. Merwin: Apotheosis of the Lepers 133
  • W. S. Merwin: Apotheosis of the Lepers 134
  • Part 4 - Igniting Sparks from Tamura’S Smithy 168
  • Igniting Sparks from Tamura’S Smithy 169
  • Part 5 183
  • On the Brink of Secession: Gwendolyn Brooks “the Wall” 184
  • “the Laggard Bird,” by Dunya Mikhail 192
  • David Bottoms’ Grueling Miracle: Faith in Middle Age 219
  • Part 6 - The Pull of the Sentence: on My Influences 250
  • Voice to Voice 251
  • The Most Essential Element of All: an Interview with Laurence Lieberman 269
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