Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey is Hayden Carruth’s most recent collection ofworks. Published in 1996, it reflects a dark, boozed washed view of the worldthrow the eyes of a 76- year-old man. His works reflect his personal experiencesand his opinion on world events. Despite technical merit Carruth works havebecome depressing.
Hayden Carruth is a child of the depression born in Vermont in 1921where he lived for many tears. He now lives in upstate New York, where he taughtin the Graduate Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University, until hisrecent retierment. He has published twenty-nine books, mostly of poetry but alsoa novel, four books of criticism, and anthologies as well. Four of his mostrecent books are Selected Essays ; Reviews, Collected Longer Poems, CollectedShorter Poems, 1946-1991, and Suicides and Jazzers. He edited poetry for, Poetry,Harper’s, and for 20 years The Hudson Review. He has received fellowships fromthe Bollingen Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowmentfor the Arts, most recently in 1995, a Lannan Literary Fellowship. He has wonmany awords including the Lenore Marshall Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, theVermont Governor’s Medal, the Carl Sandburg Award, the Whiting Award, the RuthLily Prize, the National Book Award and The National Book Critics’ Circle Awardfor Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991.
In “Another” Carruth comments on the goal of poetry. He begins bydismissing truth and beauty;”Truth and beautywere never theaims of proper poetryand the erawhich proclaimed themwas a brutalera.”-AnotherThe era mite have been brutal but “truth and beauty” where and still area large part of “proper poetry”. The collected works of William Shakespeare andRobert Frost both have great deal of truth and beauty in their works as well asthe tragic ordeals in life while Carruth only sees the brutality of life.
Carruth goes on to name the goal of poetry as:”…letjustice be primarywhen we sing,…”-AnotherEven though he’s primary goal is justice this collection of poems seemsto be one long complaint about injustice. It is easy to agree with Carruth inthe “Quality of wine” when he says “this wine is really awful, ” unlike the poet,it is his unremitting winning that is awful. Like self commentary Carruthwrites:”Language is defeatedin the heavy, heavy day.
Limp lines on the pagelike grass mown in the meadow.”-The HeavinessThis utter heaviness can be seen in the horrific poem “The Camp, ” all21 verses of it lament man’s hardness of heart. In the second verse, a lighterthrough reads,”As the kittens were bornthe father of the little girlbashed the headof each one against a rock.
She watched.”-The CampsIn this and many other of his works he illuminates the harshestsituations but rarely offers a solution. If justice is truly Carruth goal whydoes not he offer a solution to his readers instead of concentrating on thehopelessness he sees in life. It would seem that Carruth is in agreement when hewrites “True I’ve notices in who knows how many poems this life is hell, theinferno of everyday, every miserable day,…” from “the Best, the Most”.
The grizzle details and sad mussing of Carruths third world, voyeurismreeks of CNN or more likely The Nation,”on the beaten earth the right hands heapedin a little pile for you to encounteron your journey and think of those wholost them, help less in a forest, childrenprobably bleed to death – a villagein every possible way abandoned.”-Mort aux Belgeshe seems to trail with a eye for the dark underside. Blind to the joy andtriumphs of the human spirt.
At best he writes of the difference between our ideals and our trueactions:”How we cherishthe dove on the peaceful flageven while the real dove at our bird-feedersfight viciously among themselvesand against the smaller sparrows, finches, and chickadeesfor the seed I place there in abundance.”-The ChainPerhaps the dry, grieving, depression of this collection can beattributed to the impeding death of his daughter due to liver cancer. Heincludes three poems in the work illuminating this tragedy in his life. First,”Auburn Poem,” written to his first wife and mother of his daughter. The second,”Pittsburgh,” an account of his time with his daughter at Allegheny GeneralHospital. The third “Overlooking Pittsburgh,” a poem about his daughter’spaintings of the city while a patient in the hospital. They are the best of thelot balance some what sweet yet profoundly sad; beautiful but self centered withgrieving.
Others have lost there youth heath and even loved ones and not beenfilled with such despair Carruth tells us he has a loving wife good friend and acomfortable life, but he seems to find so little joy in them. Talking futuretense of happiness not to be found in his presence. In “Graves,” he has a selfrevelation when he writes:”I wouldn’t go look at the graveof Shakespeare if it was justdown the street. I wouldn’tlook at- ” And I stopped, Iwas about to say the grave of Goduntil I realized I’m looking at itall the time….”-GravesPerhaps to a man how believes God is dead the mystery that is life endshere and in a demeaning fashion. That view point could tern the colors of lifeti gray and the sweetness to bitter.
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