In this installment, Sebastian Matthews reads “I Am” by John Clare. Matthews, a graduate of the University of Michigan's MFA program, teaches part-time at Warren Wilson College and edits Rivendell, a place-based literary journal. He is the author of the memoir, In My Father's Footsteps, and co-editor, with Stanley Plumly of Search Party: Collected Poems of William Matthews. His poems have appeared in Atlantic Monthly, New England Review, Post Road, Seneca Review, and Tin House among others. Matthews was a recent Bernard De Voto Fellow in Nonfiction.
John Clare, "I Am "
I am! yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
And e'en the dearest—that I loved the best—
Are strange—nay, rather stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil'd or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.