Hot Afternoons Have Been In Montana


I post with no authority but with the enthusiasm of a person eager to know more. A certain someone lent me HOT AFTERNOONS HAVE BEEN IN MONTANA — Poems by Eli Siegel, complete with a letter by William Carlos Williams written November 3, 1951, which I quote from now:

“We are not up to Siegel, even yet. The basic criteria have not been laid bare. It’s a long had road to travel with only starvation fare for us on the way. Almost everyone wants to run back to the old practices. You can’t blame him. He wants assurance, security, the approval that comes to him from established practices. He wants to be united with his fellows. He wants the “beautiful,” that is to say … the past. It is a very simple and powerful urge. It puts the hardest burdens on the pioneer who while recognizing the virtues and glories of the past sees its restricting and malevolent fixations. Siegel knows this in his own person. He must be tough and supremely gifted.”

Williams also goes on to discuss the implications of Siegel’s founding “Aesthetic Realism”, which I don’t presume to speak about. But I will say there seem to be many adherents, including Ken Kimmelman, who made a film inspired by Siegel’s book and quotes Siegel on his site. If you’re interested in ordering the film, contact Kimmelman through his film company, Imagery Film, Ltd.

Alas, allow me to present a few poems from HOT AFTERNOONS HAVE BEEN IN MONTANA for your edification and pleasure:



There is a city,
With white in its center,
And white in its edges.
Somewhere in the southwest,
Across several creeks, several hills, several valleys,
This city’s to be got to.
Seventy autumns this city’s had,
(Not counting this year).
At any one moment in the afternoon
Two women are walking south and north,
Two men north and east,
Two men west.
The river near it has been noticed.
And a warm boat is on it now;
Southwest, southwest of reposing tracks,
And houses near railroad stations.
Hail, American development.

Eli Siegel



Are waiting
So that you
(Or anyone)
Can get
Into them.

–Eli Siegel



Education consists in instilling into them the universal mind.
–W.T. Stace after Hegel

Fly, birds, over all grieving mothers.
Tell them, if they know more,
They will grieve less.
Tell them that the children they grieve for
Are as mysterious as the God they pray to;
For God’s way is in them.
Tell them that the children who came from their bodies
Have come from so far away,
And from so much;
And that these children
Are going for so much
Of Hell and Heaven, dark and light—
That mothers can be as away from them
As lost lines in the early poetry of France.
Find the lost lines in
The writing that is your child, mothers
(Dear birds, tell them),
And you will not grieve;
You will stand up
In sweet universality.
You will be God’s mothers,
Not just your own.

–Eli Siegel



Philadelphia sky,
Seen by Jane,
Not by Alfred,
In Omaha.
Philadelphia sky:
Maybe Alfred
Will see you.
For, Philadelphia sky,
You are an Alfred-seeable sky.

–Eli Siegel


All poems from HOT AFTERNOONS HAVE BEEN IN MONTANA — Poems by Eli Siegel. Order the book here.


4 Responses to “Hot Afternoons Have Been In Montana”

  1. Dan C Says:
    August 17th, 2007 at 12:25 am eI’ve read about Aesthetic Realism before (something in a story about the aftermath of H. Katrina led me to it) but I didn’t realize Siegel was such a good poet. Thanks!
  2. ashok Says:
    August 17th, 2007 at 8:27 am eThat is magnificent poetry. Wow is it forcing me to focus and think. Thank you so much for introducing me to it!
  3. Belz Says:
    August 18th, 2007 at 4:15 am eAmy- Amazing poems here. I especially love “Contemporary History. ” What a title!

Education Philosophy Poetry Politics

AMY KING View All →

Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. Dear Amy,

    You’ve posted some of my favorite poems by my favorite modern poet. And the comments you’ve posted show how right William Carlos Williams was: when people read Eli Siegel’s poetry with an open heart and mind, they fall in love with it. It’s simply so musical, deep, kind, and thought-provoking.

    Perhaps people would like to know that there’s a book, published by Definition Press, which documents the friendship of these two great poets: The Williams-Siegel Documentary, by Martha Baird and Ellen Reiss. It’s one of the most important books about 20th-century American poetry, and includes the full transcript of a lecture Eli Siegel gave about Williams’ poetry, with Williams present, and commenting. (And saying, in effect, that Eli Siegel was the first critic ever to understand him).

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