"[P]oetry makes nothing happen: it survives, / [...] a way of happening, a mouth." -W. H. Auden

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Featured Artist: William Pitt Root

William Pitt Root was one of the featured poets at the First Annual Asheville Poetry Review Reading Series (along with Marilyn Kallet and Pamela Uschuk), and he shared the marvelous poem below, which I have reprinted from his book White Boots: New and Selected Poems of the West with his permission. He told the audience that he saw a video of slugs mating on a television nature program and was mesmerized. This poem is the result. I have also included a video of slugs mating below the poem. It is truly incredible, and Bill's poem is a moving and fitting tribute to this wonder of nature.

Slugs Amorous in the Air
by William Pitt Root
"The spirit moves,
Yet stays:
A small thing,
                -Theodore Roethke

On mucous films they glide,
gracefully monstrous:

slick misbegotten whales,
halved, cast out onto land,

shrunken, left to cross forever
the shoreless sea of earth.

Indifferent to us,
these constant voyagers

detecting in each other clues
of readiness--who knows how?

They soar like gradual
eagles up a bank of tree

out onto a dark current
of limb, then dangle

from a single length
of shared umbilicus

high in clear blue
air, spinning

slowly in the globe
of their own motion,

two beings intent
upon each other

as only lovers are,
each laved by the liquid other

in bodylength embrace.
Like darkly pairing tongues

or the sundered halves
of Leviathan

trying bright reunion
in the sea of air,

they hang in that whole kiss
while we look on

radiant with disgust and envious,
pitching toward awe

as from each head
organs emerge unfurling

like silk parachutes
exquisite with awareness,

each coddling its exact
other in the counterfeit

with a long careful touching,
numinous as saint,

unutterably lewd
as they merge

in a bright soft lock
joined as orchids

might join if animated
by desire, trembling

blossom against blossom,
slow pulse

matching slow pulse
as these doubly sexed

beings will do,
continuing an hour

and more,
each gross shape further

extending (from the chill
of what should be

its head) the lucent
figure of an organ

wholly sexual as angels,
male and female brilliance twinned.

And what passes
between them

in this urgent healing
sought by the never whole

passes slow as nectar
shining in the deepest

flower we know
and multiplies

into these glistening miracles
we who grow gardens

in our annoyance
never guess.

*Reprinted from White Boots: New and Selected Poems of the West (Carolina Wren Press, 2006) by permission of the author.


  1. i love this poem-- thanks for posting it, Luke. I wanted to submit to the Review but wonder if you would consider an e-mail submission as I am in a wheelchair-- thanks! xj

  2. Jen, I'll write you an email in response. -Luke

  3. I remember hearing him read this at a program in Durango, where it was very well received by the audience ... such a fantastic presence, he has ...