PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Subha Mukherji Dying and Living with De la Mare Carl Phillips Fall Colors and other poems Alex Wylie The Bureaucratic Sublime: on the secret joys of contemporary poetry Marilyn Hacker Montpeyroux Sonnets David Herman Memories of Raymond Williams
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
PN Review New Issue

This report is taken from PN Review 249, Volume 46 Number 1, September - October 2019.

on Robert Haas
Nature Notes at Lagunitas
John Clegg
All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light.

The ‘clown-faced woodpecker’ is brought into Robert Hass’s ‘Meditation at Lagunitas’ as an example of an example, and never mentioned again. I can’t be the first person to have felt that it’s very oddly cast in this role: it must be that the clown-faced woodpecker is the ‘particular’, but what’s the ‘general idea’ it corresponds to? (‘This precise clown-faced woodpecker I’m looking at now’ versus ‘clown-faced woodpeckers in general’, presumably; but the concept of ‘clown-faced woodpeckers in general’, however separable it is, hardly possesses ‘luminous clarity’.) What’s the woodpecker doing here? While we’re at it, what’s the woodpecker doing?

No problem there, you might say, we’re told exactly what it’s doing: ‘probing’. And indeed if this was a different species of woodpecker there’d be no mystery. Pileated woodpeckers are also found at Lagunitas, and might easily be seen probing under deadwood bark for ants or beetle larvae. But the clown-faced woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus), also known as the acorn woodpecker, pecks in order to create individual storage holes for foraged acorns - as many as 50000 in a single trunk (it’s in this sense that the trunk is ‘sculpted’) ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image