Hayden Carruth, 1921-2008

John Lundberg in the Huffington Post:

When Hayden Carruth’s collection Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey won the National Book Award for poetry, it was no great surprise that he chose not to attend the ceremony. He was always something of an outsider. For most of his life, he kept a distance from the literary mainstream, publishing his work with small presses and staying out of academia (a rarity) until the age of 58.

One could offer that Carruth kept his distance from mainstream society as well, living more than twenty years on a farm in northern Vermont before moving to the small town of Munnsville, New York, where he passed away this past Monday. Many of his poems celebrate the hardworking people and natural beauty of these areas, examining what a New York Times review described as “The tension between the chaos of the human heart and the sublime order of nature.” You can see these themes at work in this terrific excerpt from The Cows at Night.  The heart’s tension, in this case, is Carruth’s.

Yet I like driving at night
in summer and in Vermont:
the brown road through the mist

of mountain-dark, among farms
so quiet, and the roadside willows
opening out where I saw

the cows. Always a shock
to remember them there, those
great breathings close in the dark.