Where Have All The Poets Gone?

Susan Pigott
Susan Pigott

Gone to wandering lonely as a cloud, dancing with the daffodils, to Grecian urns, Beauty and Truth, to woods lovely, dark, and deep, wild nights – wild nights Rowing in Eden, to the Dark Tower, slug-horn set dauntless at lips, harmonious madness, blithe Spirit, Sprite or Bird, to strike the board, free as the road, loose as the wind, to catch a falling star, three-personed God, to lamb white days, whinnying green stable, bee-loud glade, a small cabin of clay and wattles made, to Coole, Byzantium, to nymphs and satyrs in the foam, lonely impulse of delight, tumult in the clouds, bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang, taking hold again of this our only earth.

“It is time to explain myself,” Walt Whitman sounding out his barbaric yawp, invitation to “tramp a perpetual journey” of discovery, Robert Frost calling, “You come too.” William Butler Yeats pleading,

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping
than you can understand.

Susan Pigott
Susan Pigott

And those of us who take that hand, enter a close space we come to recognize by touch, fingers pressed against unfinished walls, rough-hewn, sap oozing from the grain; come to savor the smell of mint rolled between thumb and fingers; swallow the taste of pennies on our tongue; press hands to ears against the banshee moan of wind; drum a vision of angels dancing on a pin; and in the night, rise to our child singing.

The ancients called poets the makers, the singers, singing the stories that define who we are, the story of our people, leading us to discover through word pictures and song what it means to be us, to be human in all our ambivalent, awe-filled, paradoxical lives. We turn to poetry, Annie Dillard says, in “hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed.” Through poetry we may experience that “power which from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered.” Poetry in the Word of the apostle John, light shining in the darkness. Truth and Beauty. Mystery of the wolf dwelling with the lamb, the cow and the bear grazing together, the lion eating straw like the ox, a little child leading them. Poetry, Robert Frost, said, “begins in delight, . . . runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life . . . , a momentary stay against confusion.”

Susan Pigott
Susan Pigott

Poetry depicts experience, our individual, our collective experience, language shaping our comprehension of the glory of dappled things, what the river says, an old sailor catching tigers in red weather. Marianne Moore said poetry presents for inspection “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.” Whitman enjoins us to celebrate ourselves and sing ourselves. Come, Makers. Come, Singers. Let us “arise and go now.” Come away.



“Where Have All The Poets Gone?” first appeared in the on-line edition of The Abilene Reporter-News for 13 April 2014, http://www.reporternews.com/news/bob-fink-where-have-all-the-poets-gone, and in the print edition April 15, 2014.

List of Allusions In “Where Have All The Poets Gone?”:

Poets & Their Poems—In Order Of Appearance In The Paragraphs

Title and First Paragraph:

Peter, Paul, and Mary—song “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”
William Wordsworth—“I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud”
John Keats—“Ode On A Grecian Urn”
Robert Frost—“Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening”
Emily Dickinson—“Wild Nights – Wild Nights!”
Robert Browning—“Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”
Percy Bysse Shelly—“To A Skylark”
George Herbert—“The Collar”
John Donne—“Song” and “Holy Sonnet XIV”
Dylan Thomas—“Fern Hill”
William Butler Yeats—“The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” “The Wild Swans At Coole,” “Sailing To Byzantium,” “News For The Delphic Oracle,” “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”
William Shakespeare—Sonnet 72: “That Time of Year Thou Mayst In Me Behold”
Christian Wiman—“When The Time’s Toxins”

Second Paragraph:

Walt Whitman—“Song of Myself,” Section 44; Section 46
Robert Frost—“The Pasture”
William Butler Yeats—“The Stolen Child”

Third Paragraph:

Annie Dillard quotations from her book of literary nonfiction essays: The Writing Life. Harper, 1990.
The Bible: The Gospel of John 1: 5; Isaiah 11:6-7
Robert Frost: from his essay “The Figure a Poem Makes.” Modern Poetics. Edited by James Scully. McGraw-Hill, 1965. 55-58.

Fourth (Final) Paragraph:

Gerard Manley Hopkins—“Pied Beauty”
William Stafford—“Ask Me”
Wallace Stevens—“Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock”
Marianne Moore—“Poetry”
Walt Whitman—“Song of Myself,” Section 1
William Butler Yeats—“The Lake Isle of Innisfree” and “The Stolen Child”