Monday, July 2, 2018

Amy Clampitt

Amy Clampitt (1920—1994) is a poet whose attention to the particularities of our world could not help but bring her into reflections of God. She was born in Iowa to parents who were Quakers. She wrestled with faith and doubt all her life, being distrustful of organized religion. In the 1970s she became an "intense" Episcopalian, and — according to her friend, the poet, Mary Jo Bang — eventually came to "some sort of private peace with her enduring inconsistencies." She was always pleased hearing God's works praised, and right from the start was deeply influenced by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Clampitt lived most of her life in New York City. She worked as a secretary for Oxford University Press, and as a reference librarian at the Audubon Society. She began writing poetry when she was in her forties, and it wasn't until 1978 that her first poem appeared.

The following is from her first book of poems, The Kingfisher (1983).

The Sun Underfoot Among the Sundews

An ingenuity too astonishing
to be quite fortuitous is
this bog full of sundews, sphagnum-
lined and shaped like a teacup.
----------------------------------------A step.
Down and you’re into it; a
Wilderness swallows you up:
ankle-, then knee-, then midriff-
to-shoulder-deep in wetfooted
understory, an overhead
spruce-tamarack horizon hinting
you’ll never get out of here.
----------------------------------------But the sun
among the sundews, down there,
is so bright, an underfoot
webwork of carnivorous rubies,
a star-swarm thick as the gnats
they’re set to catch, delectable
double-faced cockleburs, each
hair-tip a sticky mirror
afire with sunlight, a million
of them and again a million,
each mirror a trap set to
unhand unbelieving,
----------------------------------------that either
a First Cause said once, “Let there
be sundews,” and there were, or they’ve
made their way here unaided
other than by that backhand, round-
about refusal to assume responsibility
known as Natural Selection.
----------------------------------------But the sun
underfoot is so dazzling
down there among the sundews,
there is so much light
in the cup that, looking,
you start to fall upward.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.