Hayden Carruth’s Last Poems is a tender and fearless volume that combines the poems written toward the end of his life with the concluding poems from twenty-six of his previous volumes.
Throughout his career and until his death in 2008, Carruth wrote a morally engaged poetry unlike any in American literature. As this volume demonstrates, he always remained unafraid to face the sufferings of the self while celebrating the dignity of others. In his final, posthumously published poems, Carruth directly confronts his own failing body as well as the global injustices that haunted his writing for six decades. With essays by Stephen Dobyns and Brooks Haxton, Last Poems is a moving tribute to a towering and beloved figure in American poetry.
On Margate sands I connect nothing with nothing
As our old pal Tom once remarked. These sands
Are damp and littered, not at all appealing,
Not like the soft sands of Manfredonia where the
Italian boys grew onions and garlic for their
Lunch. Can you imagine how much I wish I were
There? No, you cannot, my dears. Especially not
In the little time we have left to us.
“Hayden Carruth’s voice is unique in American poetry: disarmingly personal but always informed by an acute historical and political intelligence.” —National Book Award Citation
“Carruth was, by the time of his death, regarded as a major figure in American poetry, having written for decades poems that are morally astute, in deep sympathy with nature and yet not estranged from humanity’s will to destroy it. This unusual book combines his last forty pages of unpublished poetry with the final poem from each of his previous books, making for a powerful monument to this poet’s career. The new poems are, unsurprisingly, elegiac, full of conversational goodbyes and regrets buoyed by a dash of kind humor: ‘The next time you see a line / Of geezers shuffling toward the checkout / Remember they are entering the arcade of / Death,’ he writes in ‘See You Tomorrow.’ Thinking back on a vacation spot he’ll never revisit, Carruth asks, ‘Can you imagine how much I wish I were / there? No, you cannot, my dears. Especially not / In the little time we have left to us.’ The last poems from Carruth’s previous books are also hauntingly final. Lines Carruth wrote decades ago to his daughter now, taken differently, stand as truthful parting words to his readers: ‘I can address you only in my mind, / Or, what’s the same, in this untouching poem.’”—Publishers Weekly
“In his literary career, Hayden Carruth has been as resourceful and steadfast as the Vermont hill farmers he lived among for many years. He is a people’s poet, readily understood, a tribune of our common humanity, welfare, and plight. He is also a poet’s poet, a virtuoso of form from the sonnet to free verse, from medieval metrics to jazz ones.’” —The Nation