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

By Laurence Lieberman | Go to book overview

Igniting Sparks from Tamura’s Smithy

In my first eleven years of teaching, I’d never been awarded any released-time. Sabbatical leaves were no possible option at College of the Virgin Islands, where I was hired to launch the first English Department of the fledgling school in St. Thomas. Then, during my third year at the University of Illinois, I was surprised to be granted a full-year leave from teaching by The Center For Advanced Study to travel to Japan and write a portfolio of poems about my experiences abroad.

In choosing Japan, I was following a childhood dream prompted by a cousin I idolized—fifteen years my senior— who spent a couple of years in Japan as a military serviceman with the occupation forces, just after the end of World War II. In our long chain of letters he told me marvelous haunting stories about Japanese survivor-families, and he sent me an odd assortment of memorabilia—medals, ribbons, coins, and finally, both a bayonet from a rifle that clearly had seen action and a metal helmet sporting one bullet hole. And he’d also somehow come into possession of a rare original manuscript of Lafcadio Hearn’s writings. I never saw the muchtouted scroll of parchment, but I was privy to many intriguing details of his getting the literary treasure authenticated. Its estimated value kept soaring, from month to month. He kept the wrinkled pages hidden away in his leather knapsack as he traveled, and he confided to me that he stored them in an old footlocker with mothballs when he returned home the following year. My child ears were bewitched by the fairytale overtones of his eventual plans to have the secret scroll published….

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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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