1. Christopher de Raismes

    Christopher de Raismes New Member

    Dec 17, 2010
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    Lynchburg, Virginia

    Braided Creek Essay

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Christopher de Raismes, Dec 17, 2010.

    "Never Stop at Survival"
    After reading Ted Kooser’s book Poetry Home Repair Manual, I decided to take a walk over to the library on campus and find some other works by him, mainly poetry he had written over the years. Making my way through the book cases on the second floor where the circulating books were found, I finally stumbled upon a collection of his poetry. I leafed through book after book getting a general feel of his literary style and the subject matter he discussed, until I came across Braided Creek, co-written by Jim Harrison. I had never experienced poetry written as a compilation before and I was curious as to what the final product would be like. Not only did that catch my eye, but also the reason for it’s manuscript and eventual publication. “Longtime friends, Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser always exchanged poems in their letter writing. After Kooser was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, Harrison found that his friend’s poetry became ‘overwhelmingly vivid,’ and they began a correspondence comprised entirely of brief poems, ‘because that was the essence of what we wanted to say to each other.’ ” (Braided Creek) From that synopsis alone, taken from the back of the book, I decided to sign it out. It didn’t seek to “continue the cult of personality,” as one of the authors suggested, only to celebrate a deep connection between friends and human mortality.

    It has been argued by Kooser in his book Poetry Home Repair Manual, that the main intent of poetry is to remind humanity of the things they may miss around them. From personal experience, I have come to believe that humans have the greatest capability of finding a safe-haven to confront and deal with suffering, usually found in and by individual expression. Whether it be through writing, reading, music, or even art, every person has their own scapegoat to find comfort. Ted Kooser’s own form of searching for inner-peace was through writing poetry. What makes this even more significant, is that he was able to find consolation not only in writing but in companionship as well. The importance of friendship sometimes escapes most people’s minds due to their busy lives. Braided Creek is a discussion of brotherhood, human interaction and the attention they deserve; as well as the importance of living. One poem comes to mind, “In 1947 a single gold nugget was found hereabouts. Old men still look for a second one. In between life has passed.” (p.48, fourth stanza)

    The idea that laughter heals human suffering is a major theme portrayed throughout this conversation between Kooser and Harrison. For example, on page forty in the fourth stanza, one author writes, “At the cabin I left the canola bottle open and eleven mice drowned in this oil bath. I had invented the mouse atom bomb.” Although morbid, one may be able to see the hilarity in this statement. Self-realizations about age and the aging process also reflect some comedy. “How can it be that everyone my age is older than I?” (pg. 45, first stanza). The authors do not seek to create an abstract world, only to write about the simple realities surrounding every human being, making their work easy to connect to. By providing these minimalist anecdotes, a deeper understanding of what humanity strives for is presented to the reader. “ ‘What I would do for wisdom,’ I cried out as a young man. Evidently not much. Or so it seems. Even on walks I follow the dog.” (pg.47, first stanza) Perhaps, due to his fight with cancer, Ted Kooser was able to realize the importance of living in all forms; especially laughing when it is needed most.

    I state throughout this piece that the words of Ted Kooser and Jim Harrison easily connect to the reader, but how does pertain to me personally? Why do I find Braided Creek appealing? The experiences of the authors are not my own or anyone else’s for that matter but most people have lived through a troubling time before. Those moments shape who we are. Not to say that the good experiences do not change us but there is a lasting effect when we face our own mortality, or see others who have to deal with it. In this sense I see a connection between myself and Jim Harrison. Cancer does not only affect the one who has it but also the ones who have to witness it. One poem comes to mind reflecting this idea. “Next to a gravestone, a green tin cup brimful of shadows. Must we drink?” (pg.28, fourth stanza) Sometimes celebrating the dead is easier than celebrating the living who suffer. Sometimes the act of living is more important than the act of dying. When I watched a love one wither away, nothing more than a living corpse who could barely speak, I found my own voice in music and poetry. It was all I could do to keep my composure day by day. Those days lasted years. I never thought that people could age so quickly, it’s horrible what a mirror can show. “Mouse nest in the toe of my boot, have I been gone that long?” (pg.16, second stanza) I understand now that we have.

    Writing what is real is all that matters. Even if the end product leaves you vulnerable. Even if the final word strips away the walls that surrounds all humans to the very core. Braided Creek is a contract between two friends, suggesting that in even the darkest of times someone will be around the corner holding a lamp to guide your way. Towards what exactly? Perhaps to the idea there is meaning in life. That concept alone is real. I don’t know if these ideas imply certain wisdoms but they exist nonetheless. “What if everyone you’ve loved were still alive? That’s the province of the young, who don’t know it.” (pg.57, first stanza) There are no falsities in these author’s words, only experiences that they have lived through alone and with others. Passing on is every bit apart of life as well as living, a hard reality to grasp sometimes. There is nothing worse than the loss of innocence before due time. No one can stop that though. In the words of my father, “Life happens and sometimes it’s a bitch. The only one who lets it drag you down is yourself.”

    Where do I go from here? Perhaps there is a certain bias in my discussion. Perhaps my own words lose value with every sentence I write. Perhaps the incorporation of one’s own personality, one’s own voice overshadows the main intent of what one is trying to say, what the authors are trying to say. When did everything become so impersonal? When did individual expression die out? “So much to live for. Each rope rings a different bell.” (pg.23, first stanza) Ted Kooser and Jim Harrison obviously understood the significance in every aspect of living and the attention that their messages needed. All people need a healthy reminder every once in awhile to cope with their daily occupations. As one poem says, “I hope there’s time for this and that, and not just this.” (pg.64, second stanza) There are many ropes holding many bells, all play different tones. There are so many aspects of life worth looking forward to and many people who have differing ideas and things to express. Who is to say that one is more important than the other? The chance to experience diversities makes life worth living. All one has to do is listen.

    “Under the storyteller’s hat are many heads, all troubled.” (pg.3, first stanza) Every person has their own demons to contend with. No one has it easier than an other. Each human deserves the consideration to express their individual pains and struggles. Every person needs a shoulder to lean on. In the words of my father, “Never stop at survival.”

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