poems, mostly metrical, and rants and raves on poets, poetry, and the po-biz (with 8-string stuff)
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Posts from — August 2009

Richard Wilbur

Yesterday The New Yorker published 3 new poems, “House,” “Flying,” and “A Reckoning,” by Richard Wilbur. “House” is heartbreaking; all three are very good. Also yesterday, my darling partner and bandleader Krys got a postcard, also from Richard Wilbur.

I’ve met him twice – two years ago (Krys supplied me with the courage!) we talked at a West Chester picnic for 15 minutes or so about his poem “The Mind Reader” (here from Google books), and last year Krys gave him copies of poems her 4th and 5th grade students had written in imitation of of his Opposite poems. The post card was in appreciation of and thanks for those imitations. This twice Pulitzer Prize winner, former Poet Laureate, foremost translator of French classical drama, collaborator with Leonard Bernstein, the finest American (and I think finest English-language) poet since Frost, at 88 years of age, took the trouble to find out where Krys teaches — there was no address on the copies she gave him — and send a thank you for poems written by children.

He is as remarkable a man as he is a poet.

Here is a review by Stephen Metcalf of Wilbur’s 2004 Collected, which begins “Richard Wilbur is living, white, male and, from all appearances, neither despondent nor mad. This is not a writer to whom glamour will attach easily.”

Nor does he need glamour. The poem “House,” linked above, is obviously written to his wife of half a century, who died just a few years ago. Wilbur’s last (so far!) separate volume of poetry, Mayflies includes this profoundly moving love poem for her, celebrating the steadiness — the lack of drama and glamour — in their long marriage. 50 years of love poetry to the same lover!

Update: I originally misspelled the first name of Stephen Metcalf, author of the New York Times review of Wilbur’s 2004 Collected.

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August 26, 2009   6 Comments

Already Tweeted …

but what the hell – here I get to use line breaks.

I’ll go to bed alone tonight,
But after afternoon delight –
And when the sun lights up our bed
I’ll kiss my sleeping darling’s head.

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August 14, 2009   No Comments

Reporting for Duty

I think that should be the title of the 8-line poem I’ve been working on for nearly 2 months and which finally has a readable draft, podcast here.

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August 9, 2009   No Comments

How … Odd

Thinking late last night about Pinsky’s celebration of the social aspect of Alexander Pope’s poetry, it came to me that Pope’s truest successor last century might well have been Frank O’Hara.

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August 5, 2009   No Comments

Subject Matter

My apologies to those of you still checking in — I’ve been caught up in an endless parade of nothing much interspersed with arduous cat-vacuuming, and I have no excuses.

Especially considering a pair of pieces I found on the web today: Robert Pinsky at Slate on “Alexander Pope’s ‘Epistle [to Miss Blount, on Her Leaving the Town, After the Coronation]’ and the art of making poetry from normal, banal, petty life” and a Foreign Policy blog entry on patriotic poetry from the People’s Republic of China’s National Bureau of Statistics.

I mean really.

As Pinsky notes, Pope’s poem gracefully and successfully challenges the notion that poetry must be concerned with high something-or-other. It “wakes me up,” he writes,

enlivens me, in a way remarkably different from many poems by George Herbert or Emily Dickinson or Wallace Stevens. This poem is social. It is written in the social form of a letter. Art here elevates the social into a more intense realm, just as another work might elevate sexual desire, piety, or admiration for a landscape into a transforming intensity.

There’s too little of such poetry today, and even “plagued with headaches, or the want of rhyme” I should have been writing in the spirit of such work over the last month and half instead of just grumping around. I like making such poems — that’s not a claim that I make poems like Pope’s in their literary value — and here’s one old one, an epistolary sonnet I wrote about a recipe for garlic soup I found on another poet’s blog (no longer available):

Grateful Sonnet

I never used to wonder how to ease
My joints on winter days I’d walked too far,
Or not at all, or not enough to please
My doctor, or only to the nearest bar.
That’s 40 feet. I’m broke. That’s for the best.
And, better still, I’m stiff because the bay
And river, one due east and one due west,
Are both about an hour’s walk away.
I chose the river so the sun would warm
My back and spare my eyes as I returned.
Of course the clouds rolled in, but did no harm
That garlic soup cannot relieve, I’ve learned.
So thank you, Carlos, for the recipe—
True comfort food, a sovereign remedy.

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August 4, 2009   No Comments