Poetry by Raymond Carver

While I understand that he is a very important American writer,  I have never been attracted to Raymond Carver’s work.  I didn’t realize until recently, however, that he was a prolific poet, as well as short story author.  Nor did I realize that he was a fly fisher.  This changed when I came across a poem the other day that really struck me.  It captures a feeling of tension that I have experienced many times as an academic.  The title is “The Debate,” and it was originally published in 1986, in Carver’s book Ultramarine.

“The Debate”

This morning I’m torn
between responsibility to
myself, duty
to my publisher, and the pull
I feel toward the river
below my house. The winter-
run steelhead are in,
is the problem. It’s
nearly dawn, the tide
is high. Even as
this little dilemma
occurs, and the debate
goes on, fish
are starting into the river.
Hey, I’ll live, and be happy,
whatever I decide.

I am grateful that Steve Duda included part of this poem in his recent The Flyfish Journal article on Carver, “Where Water comes together with Other Water” (Volume 3, Issue 4).  I see myself reading more Carver in the future (and The Flyfish Journal will continue to be the one periodical to which I subscribe).

3 Responses to “Poetry by Raymond Carver”

  1. ronpswegman Says:

    I understand your point of view. Carver kind of creeps up on a reader, especially one who comes to literature from the angling angle. Like in the fiction of Richard Ford, the fishing is there, but incidental, not the full immersion one gets from Thoms McGuane and David James Duncan. Steve Duda’s inciteful article articulates this fact as well as the interesting observation that Carver’s anglers are often challenged by a lack of skill or time to fish.


    • Kenov Says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, as I really don’t know much about him. I flipped through my short story collections to see where I might have read him before, but I didn’t spot anything. Regardless, I rather like the authors whose fishing is “incidental” to the stories they tell (or, perhaps, so fundamental to their characters’ personalities that fishing needs no great attention). Anyway, I guess I’ll have to look at Richard Ford now too. Thanks for the heads-up. Great blog, by the way. I have friends in other cities devoted to such interests.


  2. Raymond Carver in Yakima | The Literary Fly Fisher Says:

    […] Public Radio aired a piece this morning on how author Raymond Carver is remembered in his hometown of Yakima, Washington. It is titled “Against Expectations, […]


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