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Honoring poet Hayen Carruth

11/04/02 12:00AM By Lois Eby
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(Host) This month Vermont will host a series of four celebrations honoring the poet Hayden Carruth. Commentator Lois Eby shares her own memories of the poet.

(Eby) Now 81 and living in New York State, Hayden Carruth will return to Vermont this month to participate in four readings from his many books of poems. The first reading will be at the State House in Montpelier on November 12. The second reading will be in St. Johnsbury on November 14, the third in Brattleboro on November 16, and the last in Middlebury on November 18. Different Vermont poets will join each celebration to read Hayden's poems. Mr. Carruth will also read a few poems, providing a rare opportunity to hear him.

Carruth moved to Vermont in 1960 and lived in Johnson for 20 years. Shortly after arriving in Vermont ourselves, my husband and I became friends with Hayden. In the years that followed we've shared many evenings by the wood stove, talking about this and that or listening to jazz. Hayden is curious and knowledgeable about many subjects, from insects and birds to gardening and world affairs. That richness of interest, expressed with a gift for language and a sense of humor, is apparent in his poems. Amongst heartbreaking laments for the deaths of animals due to human disregard, celebrations of love, and perfect descriptions of every season, I choose to read from a poem about fall titled "Once More" from Hayden Carruth: Collected Shorter Poems, published by Copper Canyon Press:

Once more by the brook the alder leaves
turn mauve, bronze, violet, beautiful
after the green of crude summer; galled
black stems, pithy, tangled, twist in the
flesh-colored vines of wild cyclamen.
Mist drifts below the mountaintop
in prismatic tatters....
The year is sinking:
heavily, loudly, beautifully. Deer move
heavily in the brush like bears, half drunk
on masty acorns and rotten wild apples....
My heart in my ribs does what it
has done occasionally all my life: thumps and
heaves suddenly in irregular rhythm that makes
me gasp. How many times has this season turned
and gone down? How many! I move heavily
into the bracken, and the deer stand still
a moment, uncertain, before they break away,
snorting and bounding heavily before me.

Many poets and painters can attest to Hayden's generosity toward other artists. While Hayden, like all of us, has ambitions for his own work, he has another quality that is more rare: a heartfelt belief in the value of art He has encouraged numerous artists and writers to keep doing their work regardless of outward success. Over the years he provided critical feedback for my work as well. He always respected art enough to be honest with me. I felt taken so seriously in his presence that my own doubts about the undertaking were at least momentarily relieved. His basic, non-elitist commitment to the arts affected my awareness of what art is and what it means in human life.

Perhaps you too will be able to join the celebration and attend one, or more, of these upcoming readings in Hayden's honor.

This is Lois Eby.

Lois Eby is a painter who comments on the arts, women's issues and civil rights.
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