I love you, what star do you live on?Conrad Aiken
Bend As The Bow Bends
by Conrad Aiken
Bend as the bow bends, and let fly the shaft,
the strong cord loose its words as light as flame;
speak without cunning, love, as without craft,
careless of answer, as of shame or blame:
this to be known, that love is love, despite
knowledge or ignorance, truth, untruth, despair;
careless of all things, if that love be bright,
careless of hate and fate, careless of care.
Spring the word as it must, the leaf or flower
broken or bruised, yet let it, broken, speak
of time transcending this too transient hour,
and space that finds the beating heart too weak:
thus, and thus only, will our tempest come
by continents of snow to find a home.
Conrad Aiken, it is reported, avoided military service during World War I by asserting writing poetry was an “essential industry”. I love the idea of that claim but suspect Aiken, like 200,000 other young men during conscription into service in WWI, registered as a conscientious objector.
I am glad that Aiken’s life experience was not distorted by the horrors of war. His poetic voice served our nation better as a gentle soul. His writing earned him the Pulitzer Price, a National Book Award, and he was U.S. Poet Laureate from 1950 to 1952. Although primarily a poet, he published novels, short stories, criticism and children’s stories during his long career. Most of Aiken’s poetry reflects an interest in psychoanalysis and the development of identity. His short story Silent Snow, Secret Snow was widely anthologized and is an example of the theme in his writing about imagination and how it shapes our inner and outer world. The short film based on it, might appear outdated, but its black and white images fit the black and white of the words of Aiken’s page.
I wonder if I am a member of the last generation for which black and white photography and black and white films are nostalgic, comforting and not foreign feeling. It’s not that they were the norm when I was growing up, but it was commonplace. The short reels our parents and grandparents shot on home camera’s that were silent, by and large were black and white, photographs our our parents as children and grandparents were mostly black and white. When it came time to shoot my own wedding photographs, we choose black and white, it just felt right. There is a purity and simplicity to black and white photography that is lost in our ultra stylized, colorized, customized and filtered graphic world. We have become accustomed to high quality video and photography with brilliant colors that anything else feels amateurish. However, I often convert my favorite digital photos into black and white to see what’s really going on in the picture. Do you have a favorite black and white family photograph?
by Conrad Aiken
Broad on the sunburnt hill the bright moon comes,
And cuts with silver horn the hurrying cloud;
and the cold Pole Star, in the dusk, resumes
His last night’s light, which light alone could shroud.
And legion other stars, that torch pursuing,
Take each their stations in the deepening night,
Lifting pale tapers for the Watch, renewing
Their glorious foreheads in the Infinite.
Never before had night so many eyes!
Never was darkness so divinely thronged,
As now – my love! bright star! – that you arise,
Giving me back that night which I had wronged.
Now with your voice sings all that immortal host,
That god of myriad stars whom I thought lost.