Raymond Clevie Carver , 1938-1988, an American poet and writer of short stories, was a major force in the revitalisation of the American short story literature in the 1980s, towards the end of his life.
Attending a creative writing course taught by the novelist John Gardner who went on to become his mentor and a major influence on his life and career, he continued his studies in California, receiving a BA in 1963. With his first story published in 1960, his career, which he dedicated to short stories and poetry, really took off during the 1970s and 1980s. In both his stories and poems he tended towards a concise and exact use of words, with the reason being, as he stated himself “that the story or poem can be written and read in one sitting”. This was not just a preference of his, but necessary when he was juggling a young family and teaching as well as trying to write.
Denny Bradbury, in her new collection of poems “De-versify” deploys a similar style in her poems “Winter Soul” and “My Gift To You”, in which she relays her thoughts to the reader very succinctly. In “My Gift To You”, as Carver does in his poem “Happiness”, there are no line breaks or definition of verses – it is a stream of consciousness that tells a story in its entirety:
“The discontent of winter
Lies heavy on your brow
The eyes once full of summer sun
Shine solemn, wistful now
You yearn for warmth and sunlight
You long for birds to soar
You look for buds to open
As they wake from frosty hoar
Oh! Love is summer, it is spring
But love is winter too
Be happy in the tide of life
My love, my gift to you”
Much of Carver’s subject matter in his writing often reflected his own life and his style has been described as both minimalist and one that incorporates dirty realism – writing about everyday people and their everyday lives, even if it is mundane and far from glamorous, just as Denny Bradbury does in her poem “Lothario/Lotharia” where she describes the less than romantic side to love:
“”…Now its she who rules the roost
The rich and dead give her a boost
She lives the life that’s all she can
She only wanted one good man
But that was never meant to be
Her life was set by family tree
Mother wasn’t all that bad
But then she’d never known her dad…”
In Carver’s poem “Happiness” he talks of the happiness that can be found in everyday life if it is just searched for:
“So early it’s still almost dark out.
I’m near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.
They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder…
He writes of two young boys he sees, out at the crack of dawn delivering newspapers as they need to earn money, but despite being in the adult world of needing to work there is a magical innocence about them that means they find beauty in watching the sun rise whilst the moon is still in the sky:
“..They are so happy
they aren’t saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other’s arm.
It’s early morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water…”
The moment is so brief; the boys still young but still up and about very early to do their duties that Carver is unable to adequately sum up the beauty that the stillness of the early morning and the obvious friendship and comradeship that exists between the two boys as they share the morning’s task:
.. Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn’t enter into this.
Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.”