I'm reading Frank Bidart's In the Western Night right now, and it's important enough that I mention it here. What immediately caught my eye:
Guilty of Dust
up and down from the infinite C E N T E R
B R I M M I N G the winking rim of time
the voice in my head said
LOVE IS THE DISTANCE
BETWEEN YOU AND WHAT YOU LOVE
WHAT YOU LOVE IS YOUR FATE
then I saw the parade of my loves
those PERFORMERS comics actors singers
forgetful of my very self so often I
desired to die to myself to live in them
then my PARENTS my FRIENDS the drained
SPECTRES once filled with my baffled infatuations
love and guilt and fury and
sweetness for whom
nail spirit yearning to the earth
then the voice in my head said
WHETHER YOU LOVE WHAT YOU LOVE
OR LIVE IN DIVIDED CEASELESS
REVOLT AGAINST IT
WHAT YOU LOVE IS YOUR FATE
There is a fatalism about Bidart. He seems to be continually confronting the issue: what can we choose. Not who/what we love, certainly. (What was Jesus thinking with those crazy commandments, love, forgive!?) Oh, no doubt, we can choose our acts, but not the emotions that precede them. Really? You think you can? Come off it. You think you chose by an act of the will those persons you love? If you did, you're a lot stronger than I am.
"Confessional" takes this idea even further. It's much too long (20-some pages) to type in here, but it explores the relationship between a mother and a son and forgiveness. The son discovers after the mother has died that they have not forgiven one other, despite the fact that they have not lived in outward revolt against each other. The first section ends with "forgiveness doesn't exist". Finally, someone has said it. And then "I did will to forgive her/but FORGIVENESS lay beyond the will."
So then what? Is he right? I don't know. But it does seem to be a valid question to ask. I mean, we've been asking it for millenia. We've devised complicated rituals to answer the question, can we forgive/be forgiven. Goodness, Christians believe that they can solve everything by cruxification, that somehow that will make everything else okay. Why in the world would that make everything else okay? And if you really think that it does, why do you still have a long list of people who you have not forgiven, who you cannot will yourself to forgive? My favorite theologian, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, has a sermon on this very thing, but he still believes forgiveness is an act of the will. But what if it is not, as I am beginning to suspect?
I'm not typing to make you mad, despite all evidence to the contrary. (I attempted this discussion with Gene and he said I was ruining date night. I guess we have different ideas about date night.) I'm just saying Bidart is making some very interesting assertions in his poetry, assertions worth exploring, and I'm glad to at last be reading something worth wrestling with.