He’s truly a treasure. Virtually unpublished during his own lifetime, he left behind a small but rich collection of stunning poems.
A complete original, he labored in obscurity, writing poetry in his spare time when not occupied with his vocation as a Roman Catholic priest.
He took his poetry — like his religion — seriously, developing his own philosophy of poetry. And he innovated style and form, as well, creating his own form he called “sprung rhythm.”
Check out his poem, “Inversnaid.” The poem is a description of a steam rushing down a hillside emptying into Loch Lomond in Scotland.
The description is wonderful, and well worth clicking away to read the whole poem. But the last stanza is amazing. It’s four lines that form a prayer, seemingly beseeching God to preserve nature from the depredations of mankind:
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
When I read that out loud, I forget about what’s blaring on television, and I smile a little smile, and I find myself drawn back to the heart and center. Actually drawn back to God.
That’s what John Ciardi must have meant when he said, “Enrich language, and you cannot fail to enrich our experience. Whenever we have let great language into our heads, we have been richer for it.”