In memoriam: Adrienne Rich and Earl Scruggs


I’m having a John Berryman moment.



Berryman, in his archival “Dream Songs,” chronicled the deaths of other poets and writers: William Empson, Delmore Schwartz



Well, two of the poets of my youth have just passed away.



Adrienne Rich was a feminist confessional poet and essayist. Her writing was rich and powerful, and she inspired legions of other writers.



Earl Scruggs was a “banjo pioneer,” and partnered with guitarist Lester Flatt to create the early hillbilly / country sound from which just about all modern country music flows. 



I still remember when Jack Benny died.  I was a senior in high school.  I felt very solemn.  I realized that he was an old man, but (as happens when we think about celebrities) I felt that he was someone I knew and liked.  And I had a very funny feeling about this whole death business.



Now, all these years later, I know what I was feeling. 



I was feeling for myself.



Here’s Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child”:



Margaret, are you grieving

Over Goldengrove unleaving?

Leaves, like the things of man, you,

With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Ah! As the heart grows older

It shall come to such sights colder

By and by, nor spare a sigh

Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

And yet you will weep and know why.

Now no matter, child, the name:

Sorrow’s springs are the same.

Nor mouth had, nor no mind, expressed,

What heart heard of, ghost guessed:

It is the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.



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