"When I started graduate school and was utterly depressed by
the solemnity of it all," Ed Ochester writes, "one day by accident I came across Edward Field’s book,
Stand Up, Friend, With Me. I think it
may have saved my life. Though not as well known as some of the other New York
School Poets, Ed has a sweet and often whimsical personal voice and is stylistically daring. One of the first openly gay
poets, he was the first American poet to make extensive use of movies and other pop
culture elements. When I
learned that his selected poems from Black Sparrow was no longer available, I
rushed to do another selected of his at Pitt.”
Field was born on this day in Brooklyn in 1924. Asked to select a representative poem by Field, Ochester chose "Tailspin" from Fields's book After the Fall: Poems Old and New, which the University of Pittsburgh Press published in 2007.
Going into a tailspin
in those days meant curtains.
No matter how hard you pulled back on the stick
the nose of the plane wouldn’t come up.
Spinning round, headed for a target of earth,
the whine of death in the wing struts,
instinct made you try to pull out of it that way, by force,
and for years aviators spiraled down and crashed.
Who could have dreamed that the solution
to this dreaded aeronautical problem
was so simple?
Every student ﬂyer learns this nowadays:
you move the joystick in the direction of the spin,
and like a miracle the plane stops turning
and you are in control again
to pull the nose up out of the dive.
In panic we want to push the stick away from the spin,
wrestle the plane out of it,
but the trick is, as in everything,
to go with the turning willingly,
rather than ﬁght—give in, go with it,
and that way come out of your tailspin whole.
-- Edward Field