Thursday, January 11, 2007

Saint Francis and the Sow by Galway Kinnell

The line “sometimes it is necessary/ to reteach a thing its loveliness” has so much resonance and potential meaning, and this poem enacts that line in an unexpected and rewarding way. The sow is not traditionally “lovely,” but is lovely in that it embodies what it is supposed to embody: it is an animal; it is thick, heavy and visceral; and it is a source of sustenance and reproduction. Notice how the rich, earthy sound and feel of Kinnell’s language enhances what it’s describing.

Saint Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
or everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

Galway Kinnell was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1927. He has won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. He was a professor of Creative Writing at NYU, but is now retired and at his home in Vermont.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Galway Kinnell.

He gave a poetry reading once in NYC and I attended and I was just blown away by hearing him read his poetry.

2:52 AM  
Blogger Melissa said...

that is beautiful... reteaching the lovliness is so powerful, we often forget everything has beauty.

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11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What Kinnell's poem so powerfully reminds me is the transformation that comes from blessing onesself--this is the deepest blessing. However, we can also, through our own acts of kindness, help remind another of their loveliness when they have forgotten it.

11:13 PM  
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