The Dark Abounding

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018)

That deeper meaning is where poetry approaches music, because you cannot put that meaning in words in an intellectually comprehensible way.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

Hymn To Time

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Time says “Let there be”
every moment and instantly
there is space and the radiance
of each bright galaxy.

And eyes beholding radiance.
And the gnats’ flickering dance.
And the seas’ expanse.
And death, and chance.

Time makes room
for going and coming home
and in time’s womb
begins all ending.

Time is being and being
time, it is all one thing,
the shining, the seeing,
the dark abounding.

I first came across Ursula K. Le Guin as a teenager in one of the new/used bookstores in Minneapolis. These were combination comic book, sci-fi fantasy, news stand and porn  that existed back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. They were a little seedy and exactly the kind of thing as a teenager I found exciting. I came across a well read copy of the The Left Hand of Darkness and from there I looked to read Le Guin when ever I bumped into her again.

Le Guin wrote fantasy, children’s books, novels, poetry and translations and did it all brilliantly.  She won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel, becoming the first woman to do so. Her book Cat Wings was a favorite of my daughter when she was little. Her translation of The Tao is completely unique of all that I have come across and the details around her choice of words in the translation provides insight that goes far beyond any other translation I have read. ( I think I own 4 or 5 different translations.) Her novels explore themes that are as relevant today as when they were written on topics like the environment, social justice, sexual liberation, gender equality, technological responsibility,  and a moral code of right and wrong even if right does not always prevail.

Le Guin’s writing career spanned more than 60 years and in that time she published 12 volumes of poetry along with everything else.  If you know her for only her science fiction or novels, I recommend you check out some of her poetry, including her final volume of poetry – Finding My Elegy.  Le Guin wrote poetry in a variety of styles, both highly structured and free verse. I completely agree with her sentiments that writing sonnets is difficult in part because so many brilliant ones already exist, its hard to think anything you write is unique. In several interviews, Le Guin shared some of her approach to writing poetry, here’s a quote from one below.

The sonnet is probably the form most people think of when you talk about poetic form, and I find them terribly difficult. I write very, very few anymore.  Maybe because there are so many very very good sonnets.  I don’t know, that does’t usually worry me. It’s just not a form that I work with very well. The quatrain, on the other hand, is a straight form in a way – just four lines, that’s it. There’s no other definition, but you can make it just as strict as you please with rhythm and rhyme and so on.

Ursula K. Le Guin

The Fine Arts

by Ursula K. Le Guin

JUDGING BEAUTY, which is keenest,
Eye or heart or mind or penis?
Lust is blindest, feeling kindest,
Sight is strongest, thought goes wrongest.