Edward Dorn, “Are They Dancing”

There is a sad carnival up the valley
The willows flow it seems on trellises of music
Everyone is there today, everyone I love.

There is a mad mad fiesta along the river
Thrilling ladies sing in my ear, where
Are your friends, lost? They were to come

And banjoes were to accompany us all
And our feet were to go continually
The sound of laughter was to flow over the water

What was to have been, is something else
I am afraid. Only a letter from New Mexico
And another from a mountain by Pocatello.

I wonder, what instruments are playing
And whose eyes are straying over the mountain
Over the desert

And are they dancing: or gazing at the earth.

From Way More West, a posthumous collection reviewed today in the New York Times by August Kleinzahler, who observes: “Throughout his career, he was the least endearing, domesticated or predictable of poets, always determined to go his own way, no matter what anyone thought. And if he hadn’t been that way, American poetry would be a lot less vital and interesting.” (Really, though, that’s the sort of thing one would say about any poet if they’re any good, isn’t it? It hardly seems like much of a critical insight, which is surprising because Kleinzahler’s usually much sharper.)

You might listen to Dorn reading from his work.

22 April 2007 | poetry |