Poetry: In a Parlor Containing a Table by Galway Kinnell

In a Parlor Containing a Table  by Galway Kinnell

In a parlor containing a table
And three chairs, three men confided
Their inmost thoughts to one another.
I, said the first, am miserable.
I am miserable, the second said.
I think that for me the right word
Is miserable, said the third.
Well, they said, it’s quarter to two.
Good night. Cheer up. Sleep well.
You too. You too. You too.

In a Parlor Containing a Table” by Galway Kinnell, from The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ Into the New World. (c) Mariner Books, 2002.

Galway Kinnell who was born in 1927 in Providence, Rhode Island, is an award-winning poet best known for poetry that connects the experiences of daily life to much larger poetic, spiritual, and cultural forces.

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24 Responses to Poetry: In a Parlor Containing a Table by Galway Kinnell

  1. souldipper says:

    What a gift…that’s a noble result this man achieved. Thanks for the intro, Rosie!

  2. magsx2 says:

    A great poem, from a great poet. Fantastic information from your link, I noticed he was first published in 1960, and traveled extensively, which had an influence on his writings, a truly remarkable man indeed.

    I love the photo, to me it does show a caring and loving person, he is obviously giving a lot of attention to the dog, and the dog is certainly lapping it up. 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Mags,
      Delighted to know that you liked the poem and followed the link to read about Galway Kinnell’s interesting life.
      You also noticed the photo – I believe that a man who posts a photo of himself with his dog on his website is a caring person.

  3. I am not at all familiar with his poet, Rosie, but I’m deeply interested in reading more. I had to read this poem a couple of times before I felt in tune with it. I just peeked at the link but will get back to it to learn more. 🙂 Debra

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Debra
      This poem socks you in the gut doesn’t it? You read it, and when it leaves you hanging like that you feel the pain of the world … Only a skilled poet can achieve all that with so few words

      I haven’t shared a poem for a long time. I try to include poetry at least once a month.

  4. Thank you for the link. He had a deep well of experiences. He taught and lived in so many places, moving almost every year, but each assignment seeming so interesting. He wrote with a strong thread through it all.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Georgette,
      I’m happy that you followed the link and read about his fascinating life, with all that traveling. I hoped that some of you would click on the link, and it seems you all did. The poem is so powerful that you want to know who wrote it.

      Do you think you’ll be able to use Galway Kinnell’s poetry in your teaching?

      • I really appreciate his varied experiences, work experiences in particular and that he was able to forge such a continuous thread in his poetic production. I would not be able to use it as I teach Spanish and Latin American literature. I am fascinated by his professional/poetic life.

      • dearrosie says:

        What a shame that you aren’t allowed to ever stray off the path of Spanish and Latin American lit with your students, but I’m impressed to know that you’re interested in all kinds of poetry even stuff that’s “not in the syllabus”.
        When we were studying Grade 12 Geography in high school I wanted to learn more about clouds and asked the teacher who told us that “clouds” weren’t in the Grade 12 syllabus, but she said, she’d be happy to teach it if other students were interested. Four of us put up our hands – my 3 best friends and myself – so we never learned about clouds…. I still look up in the sky and wonder ….

      • I read a quote that went something like this, “The most limited point of view is that of the well-rounded man.” It’s from The Great Gatsby.
        Once I read that quote, I began to look at things a little differently. Perhaps having a field of study, and really dedicating myself it would offer some sort of understanding and inner peace.
        I’m still not sure. But I know that I will always enjoy reading and appreciating how others view it.

      • dearrosie says:

        That’s a great quote Georgette. Now I want to read the Great Gatsby again.
        I wish I’d had a teacher like you when I was in high school…

  5. Thank you for the introduction to Galway Kinnell, Rosie. The poem makes me think of my father and his old friends… Interesting that Kinnell describes himself as an introvert who grew up reading reclusive writers like Poe and Dickinson. Sounds a lot like me (as in introvert and fond of Ms. Emily – not a poet) so I’m going to look for a volume of his poetry now.

    I love the wide pine floor boards in his light filled office! Looks very Scandinavian. What a wonderful place to write…

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Barbara,
      I wonder why none of us have heard of Galway Kinnell as he’s been writing poetry since the 1960’s? I’m delighted to introduce you to his poetry and to hear that you’re going to get a book of his poems. He certainly deserves a place on all our shelves.

      I’m with you. I’d so love to write in a light filled office with wide pine floors.

  6. shoreacres says:

    I’ve not heard of Mr. Kinnell, but I loved the poem – it made me laugh heartily. I didn’t feel a bit of pain. I felt as though this is a man who understands and accepts the world – with a wry smile.

    As these things happen, I was talking over dinner tonight with friends who are about my age. We were talking about how silly we thought the elderly were when we were “young” – as, in our 40s. All that talk about illness and infirmity! All that grousing about the world changing! All that unhappiness! And now we are those people, and we laugh at ourselves.

    I’m coming to see so much of what older people share as a kind of code – a sympathetic, and yet not entirely serious way of bonding in the face of advancing age. Are you miserable? Yep. Me, too. OK – all’s well. We’re all here, despite it all. Now, let’s get on with life….

    And Mr. Kinnell captured it perfectly.

    • dearrosie says:

      I like your interpretation of the poem Linda. It turns my reading upside down but I don’t come up gasping for air, I come up smiling, which is a whole lot nicer. Let’s get on with life indeedy!

      Your conversation about the young and how they view the elderly reminds me of the birthday party my sister and I gave our mother for her 70th birthday. My sister and I were in our thirties, and when the old folks rang the doorbell, we led them carefully down the passage and helped them sit down on the chairs… If someone did that to me now I’d sock them. heh heh 😀

  7. munchow says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Galway Kinnell is a very talented poet. I enjoyed the poem you posted here very much. So down to earth and so full of insight. Beautiful. I also enjoyed reading the link to Kinnell. Thanks.

  8. Arindam says:

    To be honest, I’ve not heard of Mr. Kinnell before. But after reading this poem, I want to know more about him for sure. Thanks for sharing this one with all of us. 🙂

  9. A beautiful poem that everyone can relate to. Like the 3 men, we have times in our lives that we felt the same and thank God for friends who share our worries as well as help each other to overcome them. At the end of the day, friends and family help us go through life, ready to face another day. Have a blessed day….Thanks for sharing.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Island Traveler,
      I agree with you about the importance of friends. I love the way you expressed it in your last post:

      “That night, everyone went to bed knowing that they were not alone. They knew in their hearts that no matter what happens, they now have someone to face the battles and challenges of life. Such an amazing, priceless gift that friends can give to each other.”


      Thinking of you back “home” surrounded by family and friends… 🙂

  10. Rosie, with posts like these, visiting your blog is like going to a museum for me. Wonderous, eye-opening and thought-provoking. Such a chilling poem, and yet warmed by the photo you chose.

    • dearrosie says:

      That’s a lovely way to describe my blog Melissa. You’re so kind.

      The nicest part of going to a museum with me, is you don’t have to leave home. You can stay cozy and warm in your jammies if you like.

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