The Boss Discovers a Gem of a Poem: Late Fragment, by Raymond Carver

“Curiouser and curiouser.”

The Boss Discovers a Gem of a Poem: Late Fragment, by Raymond Carver

Nope. Not about Springsteen. But imagine if it was? Bruce, if you’re out there and if you dislodge a poetical masterpiece (somewhat east of Glory Days) from the dregs of time, please share it with the world. Cuz that would be solid.

No but today, my boss sent me this gem* as she stumbled upon it whilst (or while, if you must not be cockney) conducting an unrelated poem search. Too much back story. Here it is:

LATE FRAGMENT
By Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Rumor has it (Rumor has it!) that this was Carver’s last writing. If you were to write just one last poem, what would it be? If you were to go out tomorrow but not know today but still somehow have the wherewithal to know, this is your last. What would you write? Would it be dark or joyful? Reminiscent or life-affirming or mad? Would you take it with you?

Why does Carver call his last words a fragment? Did he mean to go on? Is this only an excerpt of what Carver meant to be his unabridged last poem? Did he take that part with him? I like to think that.

Here is today’s literature know-how: Raymond Carver and John Cheever are not the same person. Though apparently, they were drinking buddies on several occasions. I say prove it! Show me the picture where the two men are linked arm in arm at the bar. Show me where their FB Timelines intersect.

From NYT, by Stephen King, Nov. 19, 2009

And until mid-1977, Raymond Carver was out of control. While teaching at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he and John Cheever became drinking buddies. “He and I did nothing but drink,” Carver said of the fall semester of 1973. “I don’t think either of us ever took the covers off our typewriters.” Because Cheever had no car, Carver provided transportation on their twice-weekly booze runs. They liked to arrive at the liquor store just as the clerk was unlocking for the day. Cheever noted in his journal that Carver was “a very kind man.” He was also an irresponsible boozehound who habitually ran out on the check in restaurants, even though he must have known it was the waitress who had to pay the bill for such dine-and-dash customers. His wife, after all, often waited tables to support him.

If King can testify to it, I’m in.

It’s good to have writing buddies, and drinking buddies, and buddies who do both separately but never the twain shall meet. Writing can be a tainted virtue. Have faith and, if you don’t have your own Cheever to procrastinate with… well maybe you’re already one great step past them in your creativity! Right on.

Cheever, Carver, Tomato, Cathedral, let’s call the whole thing off.

LW

*Thanks to DN for the fragment.

Charles Dickens in our past, present, and future

In my line of work, it is good to know birth dates of literary celebrities and superstars.

William Shakespeare — April 23, 1564.
Edgar Allan Poe — January 19, 1809.
Charles Dickens — Today, son!

In the big scheme of things, what is 200 years? It is nothing. A blip. A speck. An infinitesimal amount of time. But look at how far we have progressed as a society since Dickens’s birth! It is astounding! I’ve been re-reading A Tale of Two Cities this month and it makes my head spin to think of the sheer ruthlessness and lack of respect for human life that was alive and well back then. Granted, the French Revolution predates our birthday boy a bit, but not by much. Put that aside and just look at our conditions and technologies today compared to then. How have we come so far so fast? And where will we be going in the next 200? These sorts of questions boggle my mind from time to time—obviously not because of Dickens, but today is his day and when I think of him writing there at his desk with parchment and quill as I look down at my laptop’s screen shining his visage up at me from Google Images… I can’t help but gasp and take pause at the immense progress of it all.

Gasp

Pause

When Poe turned 200 just three years ago, I spearheaded an unprecedented, digital extravaganza in celebration of his life and work. It was a huge undertaking that took well over a year to bring to completion. When it was released on the master of macabre’s bicentennial, I felt such an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction that little of my professional works to date have come close to matching it. Many other literary projects and tributes have come and gone since then, but the Poe Toast was surely special. … Fast forward to today.

Dear Mr. Dickens,

I do humbly apologize sir, for not giving you the same treatment I have with other literary giants of the past. There is little excuse for my oversight. I could sit here and rattle off a list of grievances I, myself have concerning budgetary needs but, in the end, I am truly the one to blame. I’m afraid sir that my particular station’s ennui has gotten the best of me. If I could go back in time a year, I would certainly damn the circumstances and produce, for you, a hullabaloo worthy of your fame. Today’s birthday extravaganza would be so great that you would feel it in your very bones in whatever celestial palace your bones may current reside. In summation, I am guilty, sir. You deserve more than a paltry blog post. You deserve more than a mention in a magazine. Perhaps, someday, I will be so lucky to make some big explosion of your words and share your work with others in a special way. But it won’t be today. And for that, I am humbled.

At any rate, sir. Happy birthday to you. Put all humbugs aside for hurrahs! May I be one of the first to welcome you into the third century of your greatness.

Cheers,
LW (for now)