Aug. 5, 2006
Naming for Love
Poem: "Naming for Love" by Hayden Carruth from Toward the Distant Isands. © Copper Canyon Press. Reprinted with permission.
Naming for Love
These are the proper names:
Limestone, tufa, coral rag,
Clint, beer stone, braystone,
Porphyry, gneiss, rhyolite,
Ironstone, cairngorm, circle stone,
Blue stone, chalk, box stone,
Sarsen, magnesia, brownstone,
Soapstone, alabaster, basalt,
Slate, quartzite, ashlar,
Clunch, cob, gault, grit,
Flagstone, freestone, sandstone,
Marble, shale, gabbro, clay,
Adamant, gravel, traprock,
And of course brimstone.
Some of the names are shapes:
Crag, scarp, moraine, esker,
Alp, hogback, ledge, tor,
Cliff, boulder, crater,
Gorge, and bedrock.
Some denote uses:
For women a painful stone called
Wombstone, which doctors say is
"A calculus formed in the uterus."
Gallstone and kidneystone hurt everyone.
Millstone is our blessing.
I will not say the names
Of the misnamed precious stones.
But a lovely name is gold,
A product of stone.
Underwards is magma;
May all who read this live long.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of Guy de Maupassant, (books by this author) born in Normandy (1850), one of the great French short-story writers. He became an apprentice of Gustave Flaubert, who used to invite him to lunch on Sundays, lecture him on prose style, and correct his early work. Flaubert also introduced him to some of the leading writers of the time, like Émile Zola, Ivan Turgenev, and Henry James. Flaubert said, "He's my disciple and I love him like a son." Maupassant began publishing his first stories a few weeks before Flaubert's death. In just ten years, between 1880 and 1890, he wrote most of the work for which he is remembered, including three hundred stories and five novels.
It's the birthday of Wendell Berry, (books by this author) born in Port Royal, Kentucky (1934). He grew up on farmland that had belonged to his family since 1803. All his great-grandparents and grandparents had lived and farmed in the area. As a boy, he was taught by his grandfather how to work a farm with nothing but a plow and a team of mules, no mechanized sprinkler systems or tractors.
Berry had an uncle he described as "an inspired tinkerer with broken gadgetry and furniture ... and a teller of wonderful bedtime stories." His uncle kept a ramshackle cabin up in the woods, and Berry often went up there as a kid to get away from everything. It was in that cabin that he first read the work of Henry David Thoreau, and where he first fell in love with poetry.
He went to a military academy for high school, and then on to college and to graduate school. He lived in California and Italy and New York City. But through all those years, he never stopped thinking about the place where he grew up, and he often went back to his uncle's old cabin. He finally decided to move back to the area permanently. Most of his city friends thought he was crazy, but he bought a small farm in his hometown, which still had a population of only a hundred or so people, and he began farming it the way his grandfather had taught him, without any machines.
He grew squash, corn, and tomatoes, and he got a flock of sheep, a milk cow, and some horses. And he wrote about his experiences as a farmer in more than forty books of poetry, fiction, and essays. His collections of poetry include The Farm (1995) and A Timbered Choir (1998). But he's best known for his essays in books such as The Gift of Good Land (1981), What Are People For? (1990), and Life Is a Miracle: An Essay against Modern Superstition (2000).
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®