Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Quinton Duval

Take a moment to scan the above header and the QUOTIDIAN column to the right, and you will see that this blog is inspired by three governing epigrams:

Thornton Wilder's "every, every minute"
Virginia Woolf's "what is commonly thought small"
Quinton Duval's "black bread of day after day."

[Click here for further explication and explanation
of why I chose these passages: "What's the Big Idea?"]

The Quotidian Kit has been up and running for a year now, and I have yet to share with you the entire text of Duval's poem. Time to rectify that omission:

Day After Day

Each of us, alone on the way,
picks up the grip of his life
and goes.

Mama says the stars took us home,
all the porch lights up there
at night around the body of the moon.
Black stars that are invisible
are there too.

The coffee cools down. The car changes
gears in the garage and
the pen sleeps with the paper
on the white tablecloth.

When it is like this, you go
out and cut the roses back.
Clip until the thorns turn into the bush.

The car knows to stay in neutral
a little longer.
The big ideas huddle
in the jar together. You spread them
over the black bread of day after day
and swallow them.

Quinton Duval, November 6, 1948 - May 10, 2010
American poet and teacher

I have loved this poem since my first semester of college at Northeast Missouri State University (aka Truman). I discovered it in a literary magazine The Chariton Review (Volume 1, Number 1, Spring 1975) that I was assigned to read in Creative Writing. Don't ask me how I ended up in that class, the only Freshman, with a roomful of Juniors & Seniors. My guess -- some casual admissions officer put my name on the roster after seeing "Creative Writing" on my high school transcript. But of course this class was much more advanced than that, more like a writers' workshop. It was daunting but I stuck with it. I'm not so sure that I wrote anything substantial, too young really, but I do remember everything we read, many unforgettable stories and poems.

As the above dates indicate, Mr. Duval died only a few weeks ago, though I did not realize this until I googled his name just this morning to see what else of interest I might learn about the author of one of my favorite poems. You may recall that I had a similar experience last spring (2009) when I googled the name of a former professor, Jim Thomas, only to learn of his death the week before. Funny how that happens, just a little tap on your shoulder from the Universe.

There were a number of good poets at Northeast during my time there: Jim Barnes, Andrew Grossbardt, Jim Thomas. Lucky for me, I was able to take classes with each of them.

Jim Barnes wrote the following for Andy, who died young:

Autobiography, Chapter 19: For Andrew Grossbardt, In Memoriam

Heading East Out of Rock Springs
for Andrew Grossbardt, long gone

1 comment:

  1. A poem from those days:

    like a terrycloth
    washrag, and hung
    on the bathroom peg
    to cry.
    I hope I dry before
    I mildew.

    [more on Juno / July 2009]