It was Robert Penn Warren who advised that the less a poet tries to say about his own work perhaps the better. Robert Frost expressed the same sentiment many years earlier when, in response to a request that he explain some of his poetry, he merely replied that he had said it the best he knew how in the poems themselves. These poems, too, must speak for themselves, and I shall not presume here to go beyond what I have already tried to convey in the poems. Even so, a few remarks may be fitting.
The poems included here were all written more or less during a single period of time and reflect the situation and circumstances that existed then. Each one was at the time fully as necessary as the next breath, not to be denied. Afterwards, I put them aside but never quite out of mind. On those occasions when I went back to read them again, I was always dismayed to realize how little each of them seemed to say of all that I had felt and needed to say at that moment. In spite of the fact that there had been no conscious intent to go beyond writing a few poems during the time they were written, I began to look for arrangements by which taken all together they would more nearly convey my meaning than any of the poems individually could do. To my surprise and delight I found that there was indeed a quite natural arrangement in keeping with the thoughts and emotions that gave rise to these poems. And when they were viewed in this broader context a natural theme emerged. This little book is the result.
A poem written at the same time but not included here began with the lines
If all were known and truth were told
They are more for me than you these lines
That say what’s on my mind…
What was true of those lines is equally true of all these poems. They were not written with the thought of anyone else ever reading them. They are poems from the heart, written truly and honestly. Poems that never seek to deny those other, darker truths of our existence. Yet not in anger or out of any sense of hopelessness or despair, but openly and truthfully with always the abiding conviction that these poems should “tell no lies.” What truths they may speak I will let the poems themselves tell.
What is it that compels us always to try to express ourselves, and in so doing repeatedly risk exposing our innermost vulnerabilities to the probing scrutiny that no matter how sympathetic and understanding is nonetheless threatening and filled with apprehension? Perhaps the closest anyone can ever come to a simple answer is love, the love that binds each of us to the rest of humanity, in which no matter how desperate the circumstances we continually discover a bit of ourselves. It is in that spirit that I would have you regard any harshness you may hear in these lines.
First light was cloaked in ashen skies
My mood at dawn the same
By noon the world beamed bright and clear
My joy echoed its fame.
Then afternoon fell gray once more
Its somber tones oppressed
But twilight found me well content
To greet my final rest.