Thursday, May 25, 2006

'to feel myself beloved on the earth'

In a burst of housekeeping, I have been going through my Outlook e-mail account at work, deleting as many e-mails as I can in anticipation of maternity leave, even though it's still months away. (Can we say "nesting"?) I found this one I sent to Steve more than a year ago. It touched me deeply at the time because Raymond Carver has been one of my favorite short story writers. I didn't write the preamble. I found it somewhere in the blogosphere; I can't remember where. And of course, the poem is all Carver. I get a lump in my throat whenever I read it.

• • •
"Do you know the story of Raymond Carver's life?  Although it's not a conventionally happy narrative, it's one that I've always found weirdly comforting.  Carver was an alcoholic who once said that he became a writer so he could entertain 'full-time drinking as a serious pursuit.'  For a number of years, the severity of his alcoholism made it impossible for him to write at all.  But in his forties, after a promising career had trailed off into addiction, Carver began to get better.  He stopped drinking, fell in love, began to write again.  His stories during this time reveal his own metamorphosis — instead of ending in painful isolation, they are full of hope and possibility.

"Then, shortly after he got sober, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  You can see him wrestling with his impending death in his last poems. He married his lover. He rushed to finish his last book of poetry, A New Path to the Waterfall. He tried to get it all in during those last few months, all the living he felt he hadn't done before, all the moments he knew would never come again.

"And then - the last poem he ever wrote, just before he died, titled Late Fragment:

"And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth."


Ellen said...

I would like to research more on his bio, because it sounds so inspiring. I'm a sucker for new ideas and questions, so here's a rather ominous sounding one that came to mind as I read this: Could the rush one gets from turning over a new leaf wear off, leaving a daunting task ahead as the new self begins carving out a new nitch in the world? Everyone is meant for a metamorphasis of some sort....but can everyone sustain it once the thrill and the newness wear off? Just a thought, I don't mean to depress everyone!

barbara said...


What a beautiful poem. And, like all good poems, so universally true...a feeling I'd give my right arm (and many other things) to experience.

Emilie said...

Ellen ... you might like Raymond Carver. He was from Oregon!

Emilie said...

And in response to your "deep thoughts" :) ... I think that is one of the great challenges of relationships, jobs, interests, heck, life in general - sustaining something once the rush and newness have worn off. I think it takes a certain degree of maturity and rootedness to find contentment and even holiness in things ordinary and mundane and not always be chasing the next high. :)