John Heydinger (pictured) is a fellow '08 Carleton grad and a native of St. Paul, MN. John was my Freshman year roommate and has been one of my best friends ever since. An avid naturalist, he has trekked the world immersed in the bush (fucking giggle). He recently spent last Summer/Fall leading trips for Round River Conservation in Namibia, helping college students track Rhinos in Africa. Since late May, John has been stationed somewhere in Alaska, tagging grizzly bears on the ground and tracking via helicopter. When not being a bad-ass, John enjoys watching basketball, reading great works of philosophy, and eating/making a mean nachos. When his Dad took a look at the name-card of his roomate pre-freshman year, his reply was, "Oh, a Jew!"
This is the second in a series of notes from his Alaska journey. Enjoy.
I started the night thinking about poetry as genre and the role, or lack-thereof, it plays in my life.
On the eve of President Johnson's announcement that he would not seek re-election, peace candidate and Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy was said to have remarked, "tonight is a night for poetry." Though he was esteemed a dangerous man for the position of president by Bobby Kennedy, McCarthy was, to say the least, one of the most liberally educated men in government and would have lent a very different tenor to the presidency than the election's eventual winner, or, really any of the men who have held the office since. (That he was at the time and remained always a long shot is not of my concern.) But this is not about the presidency, nor is it about Eugene McCarthy.
I have thought for sometime that an appreciation of poetry is really a mark of someone with a well-rounded education and exhibits an appreciation for the written word and human experience in a certain vein. And I can state unequivocally about myself that this is not an appreciation that has taken root within me. What strikes me about McCarthy's reaction from that March night is simply how I cannot imagine reacting to any event, either large or small, that would cause me to call upon the genre of poetry for response. For some reason this has especially bothered me, as though I am lacking some fundamental sympathy.
Earlier today I was in the Moose Pass library and came across the collected works of Robert Service. What I knew about Service was limited to his love of the Northlands and prolific output - this much was confirmed by the volume's scanty cover-flap biography. As I was otherwise in the dark I wanted to check out the work to, first, see what the fuss was about and second, give poetry another shot.
Yet at the second point I came up short, thinking that it would just sit on the table because I can never screw myself up to sit down and read poetry. I generally feel that I just don't "get it." With time on my hands in the admittedly sleepy town of Moose Pass I gave it a shot.
Fast-forward to that night. I was feeling a bit anxious about many things and opened my freshly borrowed collection of Service poems:
Ye who know the Lone Trail fain would follow it,
Though it lead to glory or the darkness of the pit.
Ye who take the Lone Trail, bid your love good-by;
The Lone Trail, the Lone Trail follow till you die.
Among other subjects Service primarily tackles man's desire to wander and be set apart from that which drives us mad. For me it is always comforting to know that others have wrestled with the same angles that I encounter. It seems that I have wanted to feel from poetry that it could speak to certain aspects of my spirit.
Tonight, a kernel was found in Robert Service.
Perhaps I have my in-road to poetry.