Raymond Carver and his last perfect sentence

Raymond Carver's last poems

Raymond Carver's last poems

It is Raymond Carver’s birthday today. I just learned that from the May 25th edition of Writer’s Almanac, published daily by American Public Media.

I love email. I love the daily surprises and messages it delivers both from friends and deep soul writers who want to talk about Writing Down Your Soul, and from newsletters I signed up to receive. Most of the latter go away after a bit, however. Only a few continue to be welcome, day in and day out, in my little blue mailbox. (Ok, so it’s not blue and it’s not a mailbox, but I like to pretend it is.) Neale Donald Walsch’s “I believe God wants you to know” is a keeper. TUT, Messages from the Universe is a keeper. The Daily Om is a keeper. Love them all. But the one I’ve read the longest and the one I will continue to read until Garrison Keiller no longer has a voice, is Writer’s Almanac.

Every day, we Writer’s Almanac recipients are blessed with a poem and then, a bit of the literary news of the day. On this day in history, Garrison tells us, so ‘n so died, or was born, or published his or her book. It is amazing to me, but there are no days bereft of great and important writing news. Somehow that makes starting my day a little sweeter. We writers, sitting alone in our back bedrooms, need a little reminder that we are a part of a great history, a great river of words, and our little skiff, floating along gathering and contributing what it can, matters.

Well, today, Garrison told me, is Raymond Carver’s birthday. Say the name, Raymond Carver, and the exquisite book with the simply perfect title, “What We
Talk about When We Talk about Love
,” comes instantly to mind. And I love it. But my favorite is, “A New Path to the Waterfall,” because the last poem, on the last page; the last words he managed to push onto his typewriter are so beautiful they hurt:

Late Fragment

Late Fragment by Kariann Burleson of http://www.dailypoetics.com

Late Fragment by Kariann Burleson of http://www.dailypoetics.com


And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

May we all be so blessed, as we step out of our skin, to wave back and say: “Thank you for giving me the experience to call myself beloved on this earth.” But the big aha for me and for many is that the state of feeling “beloved” isn’t dependent on the perfect soulmate-type romantic relationship. Raymond Carver had that with his beloved Tess Gallagher, but many of us have not had, or have not been able to hold onto, that ideal. So will we exit “unbeloved?” No, a thousand times no. Because every time we pick up a pen and speak with our Beloved, we get a wee taste of that deep loving connection. We are all Beloved by The Beloved.

Raymond Carver gave us the perfect sentence, the perfect expression for this day, which Americans call Memorial Day. It began as a day to remember those who served our country in the armed forces, but isn’t it true that in some way we all serve? We are here to serve one another.

In memoriam then, I bless you, Raymond Carver, and thank you for your last, late, glorious fragment. It is a blessing and a beacon to all of us.

Do you have a poem or saying that is your beacon? I’d love to hear it.

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4 Comments on “Raymond Carver and his last perfect sentence”

  1. Believe me – you are beloved by your students and your real friends and you haven’t even begun to feel the impact of “beloved” yet – your might work is just beginning.

    • janetconner says:

      Lauren: What a sweet thing to say. I was so moved today by revisiting Raymond Carver’s glorious poem. I think it’s because yesterday when I was teaching Intro to Writing Down Your Soul at Oak Trail Books, I emphasized more than I have in the past that this is indeed a romance, in the sense of the mystical poets, Rumi, Hafiz, St John of the Cross, etc. All of them, regardless of their spiritual tradition, experienced the euphoria of a romance with the divine. And we, in our ordinary lives, get a taste of that when we talk on the page. I’m really feeling beloved of the Beloved but of course we are all beloved of the Beloved. It’s just so nice to remember.

  2. David Jehlen says:

    Thank you Janet for reminding me that we are already engaged in the most beautiful, fulfilling and eternal relationship possible.

  3. Jennifer Aldrich says:

    Thank you for reminding me that we are in a sacred loving relationship with the Beloved. When we truely know that we are Beloved ourselves, we can finally love. A favorite quote of mine a dear friend sent to me as I began this journey up to the mountains. by Henry David Thoreau
    “If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” This has been my mantra to keep pushing through.


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