Sunday, May 18, 2008

a poet with the spirit of the wind

“If I were a poet I would write a poem beginning, ‘I am the spirit of the wind,’ and in it I would sweep the globe. I would tell how silently I move over the lonesome and limitless prairies, such as those vast stretches around Childress, how I blow as gently upon the reptiles and creeping things in the grass of that great area, as I kiss the cheeks of the fairest maid in Southland as she sits with her lover behind the honeysuckle vines. I would sing of my stealthy and wayward march across the prairies and begin to sigh only when the cedars are reached in the breaks of the Edwards Plateau. How my sighing rises to a perfect plaint when I am among the stately pines of East Texas. I would exult and my song would rise to new heights as I swept off the land and took to the open sea, freeing myself soon of the stench of all the lands and sucking up the keen salt spray and leaping in joy of one wave-top to another. A great and glorious song would I sing of the open sea, and I would imagine more things in the depths below than Grecian mythology ever dreamed of. I would pass quickly over a thin line in northern France where the stench of human corpses would be very offensive to me, and where the roar of guns interrupts my quiet song among the trees, and I would hurry on to the wastes of Siberia, a section much to my liking, and so on and so on—I would wrap the brown earth in my glowing song—if I were a poet with the spirit of the wind.” [Bedichek to Dan Williams, 13 March, 1918]

The Letters of Roy Bedichek
, William Owens, ed.University of Texas Press, 1985.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

new applications of light

barton creek, early morning

In one of his letters, Bedichek mentions a book by Alfred Russell Wallace entitled The Wonderful Century. In the chapter on photography called “New Applications of Light” he writes,” The improvements of the mode of production of light for common use …are sufficiently new and remarkable to distinguish this century from all the ages that preceded it, but they sink into insignificance when compared with the discoveries that have been made regarding the nature of light itself.” So much is changing at the turn of the century, and time itself is being compacted like the soil beneath any of dozens of heavy pieces of machinery moving the earth about to follow the contours of man’s desires. Already, in 1951, Bedichek bemoans the passing of an era, the loss of the honey bee and man’s sense of wonder with the natural world. I am just a descendant in the lineage of the grieving.

"I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute Freedom and Wildness, as contrasted with a Freedom and Culture merely civil,—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make a emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization; the minister, and the school-committee, and every one of you will take care of that." -Thoreau, "Walking"