Galway Kinnell Reads “The Bear” in 1973

I love this poem and read it aloud at least once to each creative writing class I teach. I could begin bullet-pointing the reasons why, but no.

Just listen, and if you want to spend more than 4:54 with the bear, there are a handful of questions afterward for your intellectual and/or meditative pleasure…

Read the poem along with the video. At what specific words does the feeling of the poem–or your expectation of the rest of the poem–or the significance of the poem–change? What happens to you or to the poem at each of these words?

Ezra Pound wrote that the proper and perfect symbol is the natural object, that if a man use ‘symbols’ he must so use them that their symbolic function does not obtrude; so that a sense, and the poetic quality of the passage, is not lost to those who do not understand the symbol as such, to whom, for instance, a hawk is a hawk. Is Kinnell’s bear a bear? Is the bear a ___? When did you begin to feel this in the poem? Why or how did that feeling overtake you?

What sorts of pain or pleasure might it have caused Kinnell to write this poem? Why do you think so?

This poem is rock ‘n roll. Why do you think so/not?

(“The Bear” is in Kinnell’s New Selected Poems. Which you can buy if you click that link.)

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