Hayden Carruth Essay, Research Paper
Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey is Hayden Carruth’s most recent collection of works. Published in 1996, it reflects a dark, boozed washed view of the world throw the eyes of a 76- year-old man. His works reflect his personal experiences and his opinion on world events. Despite technical merit Carruth works have become depressing.
Hayden Carruth is a child of the depression born in Vermont in 1921 where he lived for many tears. He now lives in upstate New York, where he taught in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University, until his recent retierment. He has published twenty-nine books, mostly of poetry but also a novel, four books of criticism, and anthologies as well. Four of his most recent books are Selected Essays & Reviews, Collected Longer Poems, Collected Shorter 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 from the Bollingen Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, most recently in 1995, a Lannan Literary Fellowship. He has won many awords including the Lenore Marshall Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Vermont Governor’s Medal, the Carl Sandburg Award, the Whiting Award, the Ruth Lily Prize, the National Book Award and The National Book Critics’ Circle Award for Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991.
In “Another” Carruth comments on the goal of poetry. He begins by dismissing truth and beauty;
“Truth and beauty
were never the
aims of proper poetry
and the era
which proclaimed them
was a brutal
The era mite have been brutal but “truth and beauty” where and still are a large part of “proper poetry”. The collected works of William Shakespeare and Robert Frost both have great deal of truth and beauty in their works as well as the tragic ordeals in life while Carruth only sees the brutality of life. Carruth goes on to name the goal of poetry as:
justice be primary
when we sing,…”
Even though he’s primary goal is justice this collection of poems seems to be one long complaint about injustice. It is easy to agree with Carruth in the “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 Carruth writes:
“Language is defeated
in the heavy, heavy day.
Limp lines on the page
like grass mown in the meadow.”
This utter heaviness can be seen in the horrific poem “The Camp, ” all 21 verses of it lament man’s hardness of heart. In the second verse, a lighter through reads,
“As the kittens were born
the father of the little girl
bashed the head
of each one against a rock.
In this and many other of his works he illuminates the harshest situations but rarely offers a solution. If justice is truly Carruth goal why does not he offer a solution to his readers instead of concentrating on the hopelessness he sees in life. It would seem that Carruth is in agreement when he writes “True I’ve notices in who knows how many poems this life is hell, the inferno of everyday, every miserable day,…” from “the Best, the Most”.
The grizzle details and sad mussing of Carruth?s third world, voyeurism reeks of CNN or more likely The Nation,
“on the beaten earth the right hands heaped
in a little pile for you to encounter
on your journey and think of those who
lost them, help less in a forest, children
probably bleed to death – a village
in every possible way abandoned.”
-Mort aux Belges
he seems to trail with a eye for the dark underside. Blind to the joy and triumphs of the human
At best he writes of the difference between our ideals and our true actions:
“How we cherish
the dove on the peaceful flag
even while the real dove at our bird-feeders
fight viciously among themselves
and against the smaller sparrows, finches, and chickadees
for the seed I place there in abundance.”
Perhaps the dry, grieving, depression of this collection can be attributed to the impeding death of his daughter due to liver cancer. He includes 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 General Hospital. The third “Overlooking Pittsburgh,” a poem about his daughter’s paintings of the city while a patient in the hospital. They are the best of the lot balance some what sweet yet profoundly sad; beautiful but self centered with grieving.
Others have lost there youth heath and even loved ones and not been filled with such despair Carruth tells us he has a loving wife good friend and a comfortable life, but he seems to find so little joy in them. Talking future tense of happiness not to be found in his presence. In “Graves,” he has a self revelation when he writes:
“I wouldn’t go look at the grave
of Shakespeare if it was just
down the street. I wouldn’t
look at- ” And I stopped, I
was about to say the grave of God
until I realized I’m looking at it
all the time….”
Perhaps to a man how believes God is dead the mystery that is life ends here and in a demeaning fashion. That view point could tern the colors of life ti gray and the sweetness to bitter.