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nUkiEmOLe poetics/ 19 Dec 2019 poetry by others #4 the Rites of Darkness by Kenneth Patchen[i]

Biographic slice on Kenneth Patchen

“On December 13, 1911, Kenneth Patchen was born in Niles [Calif.]. A poor boy throughout his childhood, he spent his time playing football and working in a factory. He enjoyed publishing in his school newspaper, kept a diary from the age of twelve, and began reading Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Robert Burns, and Herman Melville.

After high school, he moved to Wisconsin and attended Alexander Meiklejohn’s Experimental College for one year and then the University of Wisconsin. Around this time, Patchen published a sonnet, “Permanence,” in the New York Times. He continued his education in Arkansas and then spent years traveling. He was employed as a migrant worker in a variety of jobs in the United States and Canada.

In 1933, he fell in love with Miriam Oikemus, who he married the following year. The couple lived in Greenwich Village for a few years while Patchen finished and later published his first book of verse, Before the Brave, in 1936.

Over the course of his career, he wrote more than forty books of poetry, prose and drama, including Bury Them in God and First Will and Testament (both in 1939), The Journal of Albion Moonlight (1941), The Dark Kingdom (published in a limited edition of seventy-five copies with individually painted covers) and The Teeth of the Lion (both in 1942), Sleepers Awake (1946), To Say if You Love Someone (1948), Poemscapes (1958), and But Even So: Picture Poems (1968).

Patchen was also interested in collaboration and multi-media experimentation. With the composer John Cage, he created the radio play The City Wears A Slouch Hat (broadcast in 1942), and in 1957 he performed with the Chamber Jazz Sextet, helping to further Jazz Poetry. Perhaps most notably, Patchen engaged in the visual arts, creating painted poems throughout his career.

“It happens that very often my writing with pen is interrupted by my writing with brush, but I think of both as writing,” said Patchen. “In other words, I don’t consider myself a painter. I think of myself as someone who has used the medium of painting in an attempt to extend.”

For more than thirty years, Patchen lived with a severe spinal ailment that caused him almost constant physical pain. An operation in the early 1950s, thanks to a fund set up by his fellow poets, including T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and E. E. Cummings, allowed him to regain his mobility, but the relief was short-lived: a mistake during a follow-up surgery in 1959 left him almost completely bedridden for the remaining thirteen years of his life, during which he created his most visually remarkable works.

The weight of this personal battle was compounded by his sensitivity to greater issues of humanity, and his poetry paid special attention to the horrors of war. With his work, he tried to create a kind of sanctuary for the reader, apart from reality, where larger-than-life characters were motivated by their loving and benevolent natures.

In 1967, the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities presented Patchen with an  award for a “life-long contribution to American letters.” He died while living in California in 1972.”[ii]

The Rites of Darkness  

   **by Kenneth Patchen

  1. The sleds of the children
  2. Move down the right slope.
  3. To the left, hazed in the tumbling air,  
  4. A thousand lights smudge
  5. Within the branches of the old forest,  
  6. Like colored moons in a well of milk.
  7. The sleds of the children
  8. Make no sound on the hard-packed snow.  
  9. Their bright cries are not heard  
  10. On that strange hill.
  11. The youngest are wrapped
  12. In cloth of gold, and their scarfs  
  13. Have been dipped in blood.  
  14. All the others, from the son  
  15. Of Tegos, who is the Bishop
  16. Of Black Church—near Tarn,
  17. On to the daughter of the least slut,  
  18. Are garbed in love’s shining dress;  
  19. Naked little eels, they flash
  20. Across the amazed ice.
  21. And behind each sled
  22. There trots a man with his sex
  23. Held like a whip in his snaking hand.
  24. But no one sees the giant horse
  25. That climbs the steps which stretch forth  
  26. Between the calling lights and that hill  
  27. Straight up to the throne of God.  
  28. He is taller than the highest tree
  29. And his flanks steam under the cold moon.  
  30. The beat of his heart shakes the sky  
  31. And his reaching muzzle snuffles  
  32. At the most ancient star.
  33. *
  34. The innocent alone approach evil  
  35. Without fear; in their appointed flame  
  36. They acknowledge all living things.
  37. The only evil is doubt; the only good
  38. Is not death, but life. To be is to love.  
  39. This I thought as I stood while the snow  
  40. Fell in that bitter place, and the riders  
  41. Rode their motionless sleds into a nowhere  
  42. Of sleep. Ah, God, we can walk so easily,  
  43. Bed with women, do every business  
  44. That houses and roads are for, scratch  
  45. Our shanks and lug candles through
  46. These caves; but, God, we can’t believe,  
  47. We can’t believe in anything.
  48. Because nothing is pure enough.
  49. Because nothing will ever happen
  50. To make us good in our own sight.  
  51. Because nothing is evil enough.
  52. *
  53. I squat on my heels, raise my head  
  54. To the moon, and howl.
  55. I dig my nails into my sides,
  56. And laugh when the snow turns red.  
  57. As I bend to drink,
  58. I laugh at everything that anyone loves.
  59. All your damn horses climbing to heaven

Kenneth Patchen, “The Rites of Darkness” from Collected Poems. Copyright 1942 by Kenneth Patchen. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1957)

* for my poetic-Temperances I pRefer not to believe in ‘a gawd’ thus utilize a funk spelling and we-Boomer appertunance, altho the pre-Ancients were referred to as gAwds the human-History pertains to use-of-Words and wordages…

** I do not allow ‘upper case’ spellings in my werks nor on my websites…

[i]  Please refer:

[ii] “Kenneth Patchen–1911–1972” poets d0t oRg

Bio-sketch (2-27-16)…

I started into believing that I would be able to show my data and my photogRapHics in 1996. By 1998 I was learning computers would gain ascendant methods thru technics of programming for a future connected to data and information. That was nuclear-Molecular finding(s) to share and my personal-Activism w first account specifics and engendering(s).

As cameras went 'digital-Tech' I fond that editing was also to follow in 2004. Then, in 2005 my first digital camera had replaced usage(s) of s.l.r. 35 mm's. I have no mercy nor pity for the thieves who have stolen my hard werk, as anxiety of what I allowed was mid-stReam--anyway! Those asshole-Pukes have cost me $1,000's on a fixed income and I remain single, sole-Survivor of two-Families w.o. offspring!

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