Wilderness July 6

“Father Forgets” is a poem by W. Livingston Larned.


11 thoughts on “Wilderness

  1. I had to return to comment further on this one Chris. To me there is something archetypal about the last stanza. And the beauty of the very last line redeems our human singularity. It’s strong and raw. I’m aware of events moving through people, through time, forming webs and patterns. And then I read the poem “Father Forgets” and “Wilderness” becomes a whole other animal, adding more dimensions in the drama of relationship and of being human. Of being a son or daughter, of being a parent. This is masterful, Chris. There is a vast space between each spare word….

    • Thanks for coming back to this Jana. The poem took on very much a life of its own, as they often do, but this one was different. It took a lot of autobiographical elements and subtly and suddenly shaped its own tale… which bordered on disturbing for me… but then wasn’t at all.

      My father was a kind and very much loved man. He was also a reckless, somewhat wild travelling salesman in the sixties in Northwestern Ontario; noted for having more lives than most cats. The poem was inspired by the memory of Father Forgets, cut from Readers Digest and tacked to the wall of his basement workshop. That and beside it, the black and white photographs of his buddies on the frozen lake with him in his diving gear going into the water. The story is that he lost the rope and his way under the ice. Fortunately he found his way back. Growing up the story took on the nature of a myth.

      The last line appeared mid way through the writing and became the poem’s axis. Thanks again for your comments Jana and for going back and probing some of the depths.

  2. Thank you for sharing the background Chris…I couldn’t help but wonder as I read it if there was some personal history here. It has the feel of being “fully digested”. It’s a bard’s tale though, all on its own.
    Speaking of fathers….as a side note, my Dad was involved in the whole “Mad Men” epic drama. He was an illustrator so on the creative side, but as a family, we lived through the crazy filter of the advertising industry.

  3. reading this fine poem is like watching a film where a scene gets established, then the camera pulls back to a wide shot, and so on. the title is haunting, the last two stanzas dramatic. i wonder about the penultimate stanza, which provides more information about time and place but also interrupts the narrative to provide more background. do you remember why you placed the stanza in that spot?

    • Thanks for your comment Michael, and for your interest in the poem’s composition. You would be surprised how long I’ve sat here considering your question, writing, deleting and rewriting a worthy response. For me the writing process involves one decision after another over every word and line. I turn the piece over in my hands and walk around and around it, like a sculptor constantly adding, subtracting and subtracting again until I’m satisfied. But I never really question the decisions. I don’t really know what I’m doing. (I had to look up penultimate stanza by the way). So what I can tell you about the placement is that it felt right. The stop was deliberate and intended to establish context. But it was also meant to carry the reader from the basement and photographs – the record of an event (layer one) – into the landscape itself. Momentarily into the life of the daughter (layer two) and then… somewhere altogether unexpected and emotionally charged (layer three). There are at least three distinct time periods in the poem, which is a single narrative only in the way that a life is. It’s funny, but I’ve only touched on some of my thoughts… and feel I’ve said too much. As a writer (and visual artist) I leave my work very quickly behind and feel it’s important that it takes on a life of its own. Thanks again for your question, it was interesting to step back for a moment and revisit the writing.

      • thanks for generously taking the time to respond. (after i replied, i worried that you would take it as a criticism rather than as a request for insight about your decisions.) so many things to consider when writing. your response shows what a meticulous craftsman you are, and it helps me think about my own process.

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