a ring of bone
in the clear stream
of all of it.”
- Lew Welch, "I Saw Myself"
The poet, in the struggle for clarity, sees himself. At some point they must do this, or must struggle to do so, at the least. So truthful is the vision it goes to the very bones of the poet. Alternately, the bone seen is one, hollowed out and placed as in a stream, with life rushing through. One with the stream, not obstructing the stream, for the waters rush through the poet.
The identification is nothing if we don't do something with it, however, and that, as the poem goes on to say, is to “ring is what / a bell does”, to make the voice heard. That and to achieve a moment of zen. The poems are but a reporting out, and an epiphany. Sometimes a personal epiphany, sometimes an epiphany about the world and time. Many of us try at this. Some succeed. Some succeed but can't cope with the stream. In a sense, they are suffocated by the rush of the stream.
It is unfortunate that Lew Welch's ending was so tragic.
In my youth I came to embrace poetry – which was to embrace life and the rush of the stream and the ringing of a bell. I attempted to learn from the likes of Lew Welch and others who wrote in the 50's, 60's and 70's. They were muses of a different sort. They had a commitment to the poem. Perhaps that is another meaning from the poem. The whole thing can also be a commitment, for the ring is always symbolic of that, as well.
Here is a small tribute to Lew, and the others, a small poem to them, their work, and their impact on my youthful days and desire to write. At the time, my life was not so far from theirs in time, at least. Is it now so different, however, in substance? What is the life of a poet today?