Friday, July 27, 2012

Poetry Friday: Ursula Le Guin, Poet!

The multi-talented Ursula K. Le Guin - "Art is work. No one ever said it was going to be easy."
I'm pleased to hear that a book of new and selected poems by Ursula K. Le Guin will be published soon. The title is Finding My Elegy, due out in September. Le Guin is not thought of as a poet, but a poet she is and has been since before she was publishing fiction. As a poet, she summons not only the necessary leap of imagination good poetry requires, but also a fine control of the formal elements of a poem. These qualities show up in her fiction, of course. Here are two of my favorite Le Guin poems; both can be found at her website, along with many others, and I have my fingers crossed that they will be in the new volume of her work. if you came to The Drift Record today via Poetry Friday, please go read a few more poems at her website after you finish the PF rounds. While you're at it, sample the essays, prose fragments, writing advice, speeches, political writing, rants  - she calls them rants -  and links inspired by her social activism. She's amazing. And thanks go to Leda Schubert, for pointing me to this interview today in Slate and to Uma Krishnaswami for this audio conversation with Le Guin and Margaret Atwood on Oregon Public Radio.

The Old Lady

I have dreed my dree, I have wooed my wyrd,
and now I shall grow a five-foot beard
and braid it into tiny braids
and wander where the webfoot wades
among the water’s shining blades.
I will fear nothing I have feared.
I’m the queen of spades, the jack of trades,
braiding my knives into my beard.
Why should I know what I have known?
Once was enough to make it my own.
The things I got I will forget.
I’ll knot my beard into a net
and cast the net and catch a fish
who will ungrant my every wish
and leave me nothing but a stone
on the riverbed alone,
leave me nothing but a rock
where the feet of herons walk.


Learning the Name 
               for Bette

The wood thrush, it is! Now I know
who sings that clear arpeggio,
three far notes weaving
into the evening
among leaves
and shadow;
or at dawn in the woods, I've heard
the sweet ascending triple word
echoing over
the silent river —
but never
seen the bird.

The wood thrush sings a song of its own.

Le Guin is also a translator of the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. I wish all poets took it upon themselves to do some translation work - it makes a difference in our own writing to have studied at such a close level the musicality and rhythms of poetry written in another language. 
Gabriela Mistral

You'll find the Poetry Friday round-up this week at Life Is Better with Books. Head over there for links to what other people have posted.


  1. Thank you for sharing Ursula Le Guin today, Julie! I'm happy to learn of the new collection. I look forward to checking out these great links, too - what an amazing talent.

  2. Another echo in the PF roundup -- Madeline L'Engle is a poet?! Ursula Le Guin is a poet?!

    Love that five-foot beard that becomes a net, and the wishes ungranted. Clearly, that's what's happened to my wish to hear a wood thrush...

  3. This was the summer I discovered that the song I'd heard since childhood was that of the wood thrush so I am thrilled with this poem. And now I have these little house wrens that chutchutchut to each other -- they are adorable! BTW I reviewed Here Comes Darrell for SLJ and Leda Schubert went out of her way to send me a word of thanks. It really meant a lot to me. I've written probably 100 reviews and only two writers have reached out that way. The other writer was Lee Bennett Hopkins; it's such a kind gesture.