Kenneth Patchen Reads His Love Poem “Creation”
By Maria Popova
“Wayne Harris and Seon Gibben [of Gotham Book Mart] are dreamers. Whatever money they had was sunk in a book of poems by Patchen which is not selling,” Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary in December of 1941. And yet Kenneth Patchen (December 13, 1911–January 8, 1972) went on to become one of the most revered and beloved mid-century experimental poets, whose writing came to influence the genesis and aesthetic of the Beat Generation.
From the altogether enchanting volume Kenneth Patchen Reads His Love Poems comes this exquisite delivery of the poem “Creation,” included in the magnificent collection Awash with Roses: The Collected Love Poems of Kenneth Patchen (public library) — enjoy, and savor every perfectly measured word:
by Kenneth Patchen
Wherever the dead are there they are and
Nothing more. But you and I can expect
To see angels in the meadowgrass that look
Like cows —
And wherever we are in paradise
in furnished room without bath and
six flights up
Is all God! We read
To one another, loving the sound of the s’s
Slipping up on the f’s and much is good
Enough to raise the hair on our heads, like Rilke and Wilfred Owen
Any person who loves another person,
Wherever in the world, is with us in this room —
Even though there are battlefields.
Given the lyrical, almost musical mesmerism of this poem, and practically all of Patchen’s poetry, it comes as little surprise that he had a strong inclination for music. In 1942, he collaborated with none other than legendary composer John Cage on the radio play The City Wears A Slouch Hat, which is absolutely fantastic, and about a decade later, Patchen read his poetry with the band of jazz icon Charles Mingus, though no recording of the collaboration is known to survive.
Published December 13, 2013