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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Number 138: Linda Pastan "What We Want"

What We Want

What we want

is never simple.

We move among the things

we thought we wanted:

a face, a room, an open book

and these things bear our names–

now they want us.

But what we want appears

in dreams, wearing disguises.

We fall past,

holding out our arms

and in the morning

our arms ache.

We don’t remember the dream,

but the dream remembers us.

It is there all day

as an animal is there

under the table,

as the stars are there

even in full sun.

-- Linda Pastan

Hap Notes: Linda Pastan (born 1932) has written a good dozen books of poetry and has won tons of awards (over a half dozen, I believe is considered a ton) and was Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1991-1995. She lives in Maryland, still.

When she attended Radcliffe she won the Mademoiselle magazine poetry prize. The runner-up in that contest was Sylvia Plath. Pastan got her masters at Brandeis. She concentrated on raising a family and her husband, Ira, encouraged her to go back to poetry.

Pastan's subject matter borders on the practical and the everyday – the stirring of pots, the eating of pears, the scrubbings and dustings of life. But Pastan's ear is her gift, when she turns the phrase just right, bastes it with the spaces, gives it time to settle, her poetry is a marvel of verbal beauty and economy. She writes of the natural world and grief and children and the other thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

In today's poem, she embraces a difficult subject– what the hell is that mysterious something that we all want? That thing we yearn for, that whatchamacallit that will fill us up with enough whatever the hell it is? It's almost there – we can almost get to it. And whatever we do get, starts to own us, have you ever noticed that? And whatever we do get – it's not enough, not right, not exactly right, not quite. This spiny little poem packs a powerful punch.

Here's a good Pastan quote: " No, there is no ease in writing. The job is to make it by the end feel as if it flows easily. But each poem of mine goes through something like 100 revisions. "

You can find more Pastan here:

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