Nancy Huntting, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
Here is the new issue of TRO—titled “For Our Time: Six Poems by Eli Siegel.” It is immensely kind and strengthening! Through poems that surprise and stir deeply, have humor and unsurpassed imagination, and through vital comment on their meaning for people at this fearful time, you’ll see the world itself as more coherent and friendly. Read “For Our Time: Six Poems by Eli Siegel”—the current issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known!
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
For the people of America and the world, who, during this time of pandemic, long to have emotions they like and thoughts that make them proud—we reprint here six poems by Eli Siegel.
I learned this from Aesthetic Realism, and there’s no knowledge more precious to me: all true poetry embodies a way of seeing the world that we want to have. That is because in a good poem, not only the immediate subject but the world itself is seen justly. “Poetry,” wrote Eli Siegel, “…is the oneness of the permanent opposites in reality as seen by an individual.” And in a poem, a result of this true seeing of reality is poetic music: we hear—as word meets word—reality’s tumult and calm as one, its lightness and weight, surprise and continuity, mystery and clearness, difference and sameness, as one. Whatever the subject, a true poem is showing us—is having us hear—that the world has value, meaning, a structure we can like.
We need, at any time, to see that the world has this meaning, this beautiful structure. We need, desperately, to see it now. We need to feel that amid the present fearsomeness, there is something which is the world in its fullness—a world that is not the same as an epidemic, though it can contain one, as it also contains flowers and great paintings and acts of courage.
Every good poem, then, has a way of seeing we need. But the particular poems by Eli Siegel that I’ve chosen present this needed way of seeing with a certain clarity and richness.
1. “Put Zebras by the Mississippi”
The poems included here are from two collections by Eli Siegel: Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana: Poems (1957) and Hail, American Development (1968). In his Preface to the first of these books, Mr. Siegel writes:
Poetry, like life, states that the very self of a thing is its relations, its having-to-do-with other things. Whatever is in the world, whatever person, has meaning because it or he has to do with the whole universe: immeasurable and crowded reality. [P. xi]
In everyday life, people suffer because they do not feel they’re in a world where things, in all their multitudinousness, are related, have really to do with each other—and with oneself. Relation is always about the opposites of likeness and difference, junction and apartness. People have felt, for instance, that their family was not related to their coworkers; that their thoughts alone were not related to ancient history, or a hill in Asia, or the thoughts of a person on the next block….Read more