Wednesday, January 25, 2012

`Eager to Share What He Deemed Best'

Yvor Winters died on this day in 1968, a year of turmoil and grief, at the age of sixty-seven. His great poem “On a View of Pasadena from the Hills” concludes:

“The driver, melting down the distance here,
May cast in flight the faint hoof of a deer
Or pass the faint head set perplexedly.
And man-made stone outgrows the living tree,
And at its rising, air is shaken, men
Are shattered, and the tremor swells again,
Extending to the naked salty shore,
Rank with the sea, which crumbles evermore.”

Charles Tomlinson, the English poet born in 1927, visited Winters at his home in Palo Alto in December 1959, and recounts the meeting in “Beginnings” (Some Americans: A Personal Record, 1981):

“…the striking thing about Winters’s conversation that day was its lack of precisely that quality of ratiocinative abstraction that he professed to admire in poetry. His talk consisted of a celebration of the concrete: Californian wines, Californian trees and the shapes of their leaves, local topography and the changes the vicinity had undergone, the habits of airedales [sic], the migration of birds, the kinds of birds that visited Palo Alto, the distinguishing peculiarities of the older Californian culture.”

In other words, the world he knew and cherished. Tomlinson admits to feeling apprehensive about meeting this “reputedly unaccommodating man,” but concludes:

“The day was an entire success. The dignity and dimension of the man unmistakably communicated themselves, as did a capacity for friendship, rather than friendliness. Winters showed no desire to please, but, as in his urging to try a particularly fine wine, he was eager to share what he deemed best.”


The Book Haven said...

What a lovely tribute! Thank you.

Helen Pinkerton said...

Thanks for the reference to Tomlinson's memoir, which I didn't know at all. It sounds very accurate and perceptive to me. The wines, leaves, changes in Los Altos, the airedales, birds, etc. Tomlinson's comment that Winters "was eager to share what he deemed best" applies also to the way he taught the poems that he loved so much.