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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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6 comments

1 Mary Alexandra Agner { 08.27.09 at 11:05 am }

That last line (in “House”) is killer. You can kinda see where the poem is going, it’s sweet, it’s well-written, but I didn’t expect that and it was very powerful.

Thanks for the links, Mike!

2 Poetry News For August 28, 2009 | Poetry Hut Blog { 08.28.09 at 12:07 am }

[...] Yesterday The New Yorker published 3 new poems, “House,” “Flying,” and “A Reckoning,” by… [...]

3 Barzilai { 09.06.09 at 8:46 pm }

Just surfing along, and I found this website. I, too, saw Wilbur’s poems in The New Yorker, and I was stopped in my tracks by “A Reckoning”. For half a moment, I thought he was channeling Ogden Nash, and then I realized that he was being very serious indeed. I’m told that the movie “Groundhog Day” is used as a theological metaphor by many and various religious thinkers, and similarly, at least for me, this poem resonates at many frequencies.

4 David in NY { 01.27.10 at 9:54 am }

Thanks for the note of the new poems. I have just been looking through the collected poems and thinking that “For C.” is one of the best poems I have ever read — maybe one of the best of its type ever written. I had not realized that she died nearly three years ago.

5 riverbed steelhead mobile controller { 02.13.12 at 11:19 pm }

Just to let you know your site looks a little bit weird in Opera on my laptop with Linux .

6 Mike { 02.14.12 at 12:05 am }

Can you be more specific?

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