Donald D. Kummings

This is the poem, written by my mentor and advisor, that I found in a textbook and later responded to in poem form. It is posted here by permission of the author.

The Contest Between Harmony and Invention

                Donald D. Kummings

Wallace Stevens invented a man,
a woman and a moving river,
a blackbird;
the latter, of course, may be looked upon as a crow.

Meanwhile I am spending twenty-seven years in dreaming
a breath; a crow
has hidden in it,
as wetness hides in water.

And am observing: the crow–as though the color
of darkness were moving, or folding
up like a wing.

I think
back: a knobby, burlap bag of a woman
boiling rags in a pot,
an old man coughing up honey-colored phlegm,
a cold brown fried crow wing clinging
to an icebox plate,
a river, as though the river is moving.

A crow and the ways of looking at a crow
are one.

I say that a crow is a blackbird.

I have invented Wallace Stevens.


What follows is my response to Dr. Kummings’ poem.

After The Waters of Distress*

          Elizabeth Crawford

Donald Kummings invented Wallace Stevens
when he learned of the crow
hidden deep in the wings of a blackbird.

I have seen a glistening crow
flash dull scarlet flecks
as she strolled
through full summer sunlight.

And have known a type of blackbird
who wears the wound of her flight
as a bright crimson slash on her sleeve.

During those first forty years,
my blood moved as slow
as a sluggish stream in a low
almost barren landscape.
Then was quickened to a river
by the clear runoff
from a not too distant mountain.
Now cuts a new course
and waters that land,
sounding harmony
while fingering invention.

My blood is one
with the blackbird and crow,
the first a swift slash
the other, sunlit reflection.

Yes, I have read Wallace Stevens,
but have been taught
by Donald Kummings.

*When the Lord has given you the bread of suffering and the waters of distress, he who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes. Whether you turn to right or left,  your ears will hear these words behind you, “This is the way, follow it.”

__ Isaiah 30:20-21
The Jerusalem Bible

3 Responses to Donald D. Kummings

  1. Pingback: Resurrecting Harmony and Invention | Soul's Music

  2. Sherry Marr says:

    Oh wow! How your teacher must have felt his heart sore, at reading this amazing tribute………….I love both poems, and resonate with your blood flowing slowly through your years of oppression (as did mine, my voice was silenced for a decade) and then the quickening when you welcomed your liberation and all that was to follow. Sigh. Fantastic writing. You are so fortunate to have had such a teacher, as was he to have had you for a student.

    Sherry, thanks for taking a look. Dr Kummings was my advisor, but also my friend. After I left school, if he knew I was going to read my poetry, he always showed up and bought my little chapbooks, asking me to sign them. He was one of the original people who started the poetry group that I later became the moderator for. But, before that came the Grammy Nomination and he reveled in that one. At one point, he asked me to write a letter of recommendation to the committee that was looking to nominate him for The National Teacher of The Year award. I did so and he won the award. After that, he told the head of the dept. that if anyone came looking for a letter of recommendation, he was to make a copy of that letter and send it to them. Prior to my becoming Moderator of The Root River Poets, the group created an anthology of past and present members. The anthology was sold in the bookstore I managed, so I delivered it to him personally and told him thank you for letting one of my dreams come true. That was that we two would somehow manage to appear in the same book together. He laughed out loud at that. Then said, “And I think just the opposite. It is the rest of us who should be honored to be in the same book with you.” We never have enough of his kind of individuals in our lives. Maybe that’s a good thing. They become both treasure and inspiration when we need it most.



  3. Rosemary Nissen-Wade says:

    Wonderful story and wonderful poems! I like them both very much – but yours thrills me the more. I can see why he said he and others should be honoured to be in a book with you.


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