Bad Mood, Good Poetry


Sometimes, when your mood shifts south unbidden, you need to pull it back. Sometimes reading certain poets helps with that–the task of settling yourself, of reeling your rogue mood back in.

For what is this mood, anyway, to think it can divorce itself from you, then reunite its way at its bidding? Something worth resisting, that’s what. If not, it will make like a squatter of your spirit and take over.

So today, being one of those days when my mood is getting ideas, I pulled Galway Kinnell’s Mortal Acts, Mortal Words and reread two of his mortal poems. The simplicity of eating blackberries. The uncanniness of marital love. Cool, crisp, Vermont poetry. For when your mood’s thinking south and you need to show it who’s boss.


Blackberry Eating
by Galway Kinnell

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched or broughamed,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry eating in late September.


After Making Love We Hear Footsteps
by Galway Kinnell

For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run—as now, we lie together,
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies,
familiar touch of the long-married,
and he appears—in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small he has to screw them on—
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.
In the half darkness we look at each other
and smile
and touch arms across this little, startlingly muscled body—
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
this blessing love gives again into our arms.

Poets and poems that serve as safe antidotes to bad moods differ from person to person. But you’ve got to have them — not in your medicine cabinet or liquor closet (God help us), but on your bookshelf.

2 thoughts on “Bad Mood, Good Poetry”

Comments are closed.