The Absent Ghost

Because I tend to ramble, I actually forgot why I brought out Dark from my old room and brought it up in my previous entry: to mention the unusual but somewhat appropriate inclusion of Robert Frost’s “Home Burial” in its pages.

Apart from being the only poem in an anthology of prose, “Home Burial” is hardly about murder or the supernatural. Calling it madness is a stretch. As a dramatization of mourning, it’s unparalleled, at least in my opinion.

Randall Jarrell’s reading of the poem is considered definitive and may be read here, along with several others, and a more recent exhaustive per-line exploration is found in this threepart annotation. All of which isn’t to say that the poem itself isn’t worth reading. It’s emotionally grueling.

I’m not always attuned to Frost’s poetry and poetics, but sometimes, when I find myself wishing I had the ability to write a dramatic situation in verse, it’s “Home Burial” I hold up as a model.

Ann Lauterbach on John Ashbery’s “Litany”


I have come to believe, or think, or understand, that when someone dies, the most acute sense of loss is that of his or her voice. (For a while, one can “hear” a person’s voice in one’s inner ear, but slowly that fades.) This is odd, since sound is of course immaterial; one would think that the body would be the most felt absence. But sound is a distinctive marker of living presence more than any material object can possibly be; sound and lived time are indissoluble: they are, so to speak, part of the continuity of a landscape rather than the singularity of a portrait. Sound is embedded in spatial context.

via From Conjunctions:49, Ann Lauterbach on John Ashbery’s As We Know.