Books by Hayden Carruth

RELUCTANTLY by Hayden Carruth
Released: Aug. 1, 1998

Frank, curmudgeonly wisdom. Carruth (Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey, 1996) is nothing if not a contradiction: a professor who scorns that word and derides academia as antagonistic to art-making; a poet of appealing modesty, erudition, and formal grace whose psychic life, as described here, has veered into every sort of excess; an outsider to the poetry establishment who yet has received many of its most coveted awards, edited its marquee publications, etc. It is thus no surprise that, from the title on, his succinct and wonderful book should declare frequently that it didn—t want or even need to be written. (Consider it ironic, then, that much of this collection should have appeared in print before, in the fine Suicides and Jazzers). The centerpiece here is an essay simply entitled "Suicide," as moving and original as it is artless, that recounts in occasionally morbid detail the poet's massive drug overdose in 1988: "In my suicide I experienced a renewal of luck . . . .I was ready for that renewal and for its reward in happiness." Carruth's dogged use of the term "suicide" despite his having survived does, however, skirt the line between pretension and profundity. The same could be said of another statement in another essay: "Where I am is the cosmic individual. Nothing grand, nothing romantic." Elsewhere, though, Carruth writes passionately of his devotion to music—primarily jazz and the blues—and of its devotion to him over years of lonely labor and despair. Many fine passages detail his rural-but-not-rustic upbringing, which may have inspired his fondness for calling a spade no more (and no less) than a spade. Complains Carruth memorably, —Our lives are supposed to be —fun— and not much else.— His own preference: —A life of hardship that was nevertheless possible was the luckiest thing that could have happened to me in my middle age. If I didn—t choose it, I quickly acquiesced in it.—— Read full book review >