Hayden Carruth, as I’ve said before (hi, Moira!), is one of my favorite American poets; tonight I was reading my wife a poem of his called “Vermont” (1975, available in Collected Longer Poems) and came across these lines (towards the end), which I thought I’d share with y’all:
What is the difference, now at last, between
the contemporary and the archaic? I
say “drawed” for “drew” and “deef” for “deaf” and still
use “shall” and “shan’t” in ordinary conversation
like any good Vermonter, and sometimes too
I write “thou” for “you.” So am I therefore
dead? That will come soon enough. Meanwhile
my language is mine, I insist on it,
a living language as long as it is spoken
by living men and women naturally,
as long as it is used.
OK, I can’t resist quoting the ending as well:
The name of our green mountain is from French,
but sometimes, ungallicly, we twist it, saying
Vêrmont with the stress up front. We intend
no harm and only characteristic disrespect.
Once when I heard it I was struck by how
the name might be divided differently,
Vermont, the Worm of Being. We are torn
here in this place that is our now between
its beauty and its depravity. The beauty
is mostly old, our mountains and our farms,
and the depravity is mostly new.
We don’t hate it exactly, being not
the hate-conceiving kind, but we despair.
God, we despair! — Vermont’s protracted gloom,
our end-of-the-winter desolation, April
in our cold hearts. From this we make ourselves,
remake ourselves each moment, stronger, harder,
with our own beauty. Yes, our great green mountain
is the worm of being, long and irregular,
twined lengthwise through our state, our place, our now.
Meanwhile we dream of other sunnier places.
Myself, I’m going down next month to look
at a house I know of in New Mexico.