Enjoy this weekend’s bits and bytes


Hayden Carruth didn’t praise technology too much, let alone the technology we work with, though I once heard him talk about computers making experimental layout of poems easier. We have his “Regarding Chainsaws,” which (sorry) cuts both ways, and this minor mention of computing technology:

April 25, 1994

Dear Jane,

It’s an entirely typical morning here. Gray, drizzly, warm, a song sparrow in the old grape vine, crows congregating noisily in the woods. I’ve been up for about an hour and a half. I’ve made coffee and fed the cats, Mudgins and Cooker, I’ve drunk two mugs of coffee and smoked six or seven cigarettes, I’ve considered my sins, and now I’m sitting in my tattered old wingback chair by the stove (cold at this time of year) with my new portable computer on my knees. Much more comfortable than sitting stark upright at the desk. Joe-Anne is still sleeping. We were up late last night, as we are most nights….

—from Letters to Jane (Ausable Press, 2004)

But my favorite Carruth rumination on technology is “Pa McCabe” (which is itself eventually more concerned with Pa). The poem opens like this:

Pa McCabe

You tell these young spratasses around here

you got a ram down in the brook, they’ll look

at you like you was talking the Mongolian

jabberfizzy, they ain’t never heard of any such

a thing. Even if you say it’s a hydraulic

ram, it don’t mean nothing to them. Maybe

it don’t to you. Well, a ram is a kind of a pump,

see? It works without any power except the force

of the water itself. How? You’re thinking I’m

off my rocker? Ok. You got an inlet pipe

that’s four to five times the diameter of the

outlet, and you set that inlet far enough up

the brook so it makes a fall of maybe two to

three feet, so the incoming water will hit

with force. What happens is it hits a little

weighted valve and pushes it upwards so most

of the water sprays out and goes back to the brook.

But then the valve falls closed again from its

own weight, and that pushes a little water up

into the dome, and of course that creates pressure

same as you got in any pump, and the pressure

will drive some of the water into the outlet.

Ingenious, ain't it? Of course it ain't what you

guys would call efficient; you only get out

about 10 to 15 percent of the incoming water. But

it don't cost nothing! Nothing! No electricity,

no gasoline. Once you got that pump going, it'll

run forever.

                   I had a small one once, borrowed

off Marshall....

Read the rest in Carruth’s Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991 (Copper Canyon Press, 1992).


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