Thoughts on Raymond Carver

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August 2 is the anniversary of Raymond Carver’s death in 1988, at age 50 from lung cancer. Today’s Daybook column, contributed by Steve King for Barnes & Noble Review, touches on Carver’s poetry, less well known than his short fiction. Carver, lauded for his incisive characterization, also had an affinity, a reverence even, for nature, as demonstrated in the poem he wrote to mark his 45th birthday. King also excerpts a poem by a contemporary of Carver’s at Syracuse University, Hayden Carruth. Carruth’s poem is a fitting tribute to Carver’s ability to use spare prose to convey complicated emotions and characters.

Joseph Cardillo, author of a number of books on psychology, uses Carver’s stories as an example of how reading literature is therapeutic in an article in Psychology Today. Even his disenfranchised, broken characters have a lesson to teach the reader, a lesson the characters themselves do not learn:

We see the dysfunction of not taking a good look at who we are inside before making important life-choices and building our bridges from there. Carver shows what results is likely resentment and resentment kills--kills relationships, goals, and happiness. . . . Stories help us understand how dysfunction leads to, among other problems, a disassociation with self and, as such, a loss of greater purpose.

Read more of Carver’s poetry and a detailed biography at the Poetry Foundation.