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  #21  
Old 10-16-2017, 01:37 AM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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I sent him a fan letter almost 50 years ago, telling him how much I loved his Villon translations in Poetry. I enclosed a ballade. I was stunned, a week or so later, to get a reply from him, and I met him shortly after. We kept up sporadically over the years, and I regret that there was never enough time just to sit and talk. One of the last times I saw him was in 2008. My brother had just died, as had his. Laurie spent most of his post-war life on a VA psychiatric ward. Dick told me that in his final years Laurie would excitedly talk about leaving the hospital and finding a job as a tennis instructor in California. This was told with gravity and kind bemusement. I later wrote a poem about it.
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  #22  
Old 10-16-2017, 04:27 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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When Charlee died Alan and I gave Dick ten days to live. Instead he made it ten years. He repeatedly told me of his desire to be reunited, and I trust she was waiting at the Gate.
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  #23  
Old 10-16-2017, 04:45 AM
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Ed Shacklee Ed Shacklee is offline
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Here is the notice in The Washington Post:

“Throughout his career Wilbur has shown, within the compass of his classicism, enviable variety,” The Washington Post book critic Michael Dirda wrote in 2004, reviewing a new collection of Mr. Wilbur’s poetry.

“His poems describe fountains and firetrucks, grasshoppers and toads, European cities and country pleasures. All of them are easy to read, while being suffused with an astonishing verbal music and a compacted thoughtfulness that invite sustained reflection. Besides, they are so beautiful one simply wants to go back to them again and again.”
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  #24  
Old 10-16-2017, 05:17 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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One student in the intro class told me last week she didn't understand our poetry section (Marie de France, Rimbaud, Apollinaire), but she understood Wilbur's Andromache.
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  #25  
Old 10-16-2017, 05:41 AM
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John Whitworth John Whitworth is offline
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Ninety six! May he rest in peace and I hoe to live so long. I have his collletd poems of 2004 up on my shelves. I shall look at it again.
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  #26  
Old 10-16-2017, 08:05 AM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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My condolences (and a smidge of envy) to all who knew him. This is his poem that most sticks in my mind. I love it entirely, but "moving and staying like white water" is just so striking. Apologies for the wonky formatting; it's beyond my capabilities and better at the link.


Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks

From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessèd day,
And cries,
“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,
“Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance.”
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  #27  
Old 10-16-2017, 08:47 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
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For me, the most striking lines have always been "The soul shrinks/ From all that it is about to remember," which so accurately describes what waking up is so often like.
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  #28  
Old 10-16-2017, 09:40 AM
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Orwn Acra Orwn Acra is offline
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Maybe this isn't the place for critical commentary. (But why not? His poems can withstand my drivel.) I have tried and tried again to appreciate Wilbur whose poems with few exceptions alight neither heart nor imagination in me. Wilbur's influence on formalism is so pervasive he became a cul-de-sac from which no one seems to know where to go. A century since his birth and poets still try to write the Wilbur poem. There must be more.

That said, here are two I admire very much. They are well-known.

Trismegistus

O Egypt, Egypt—so the great lament
Of thrice-great Hermes went—
Nothing of thy religion shall remain
Save fables, which thy children shall disdain.
His grieving eye foresaw

The world’s bright fabric overthrown
Which married star to stone
And charged all things with awe.

And what, in that dismantled world, could be
More fabulous than he?
Had he existed? Was he but a name
Tacked on to forgeries which pressed the claim
Of every ancient quack—
That one could from a smoky cell
By talisman or spell
Coerce the Zodiac?

Still, still we summon him at midnight hour
To Milton’s pensive tower,
And hear him tell again how, then and now,
Creation is a house of mirrors, how
Each herb that sips the dew
Dazzles the eye with many small
Reflections of the All—
Which, after all, is true.


Thyme Flowering Among the Rocks

This, if Japanese,
Would represent grey boulders
Walloped by rough seas

So that, here or there,
The balked water tossed its froth
Straight into the air.

Here, where things are what
They are, it is thyme blooming,
Rocks, and nothing but—

Having, nonetheless,
Many small leaves implicit,
A green countlessness.

Crouching down, peering
Into perplexed recesses,
You find a clearing

Occupied by sun
Where, along prone, rachitic
Branches, one by one,

Pale stems arise, squared
In the manner of Mentha,
The oblong leaves paired.

One branch, in ending,
Lifts a little and begets
A straight-ascending

Spike, whorled with fine blue
Or purple trumpets, banked in
The leaf axils. You

Are lost now in dense
Fact, fact which one might have thought
Hidden from the sense,

Blinking at the detail
Peppery as this fragrance,
Lost to proper scale

As, in the motion
Of striped fins, a bathysphere
Forgets the ocean.

It makes the craned head
Spin. Unfathomed thyme! The world's
A dream, Basho said,

Not because that dream's
A falsehood, but because it's
Truer than it seems.
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  #29  
Old 10-16-2017, 11:24 AM
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Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
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Very well put, Walter. I, too, like two of his poems, but not those two.

Here is my early morning comment on social media, in case anyone (...horrors!) missed it:

A roadblock made me have to drive into and through a neighborhood of North Caldwell this morning. A bastion of Sopranos mansions with only a holdover sense of the colonial era stone estates and farms that Richard Wilbur knew growing up there. I noticed his obituary in the Times when I got to the train station in Little Falls. I always walked past his poetry as I would some huge historical painting by Jacques Louis David at the Met with a nod to its classical beauty and faultless execution, on my way to Rembrandt, Titian, or Pissarro. But Wilbur was also a man out of time, and one has to respect him for that.

RM
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  #30  
Old 10-16-2017, 11:48 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I owe a debt of gratitude to R.W. for encouraging my Dante work. It is no exaggeration to say that his thumbs up of my translation of a sonnet from the Vita Nova, mediated by Tim Murphy right here at the Sphere about 8 or 9 years ago, played a big part in my finding the cojones to translate the whole book. And I went on to translate a lot more of Dante. Wilbur didn't have to share that blessing, but he did. That takes a special kind of man and poet.

I love many of his poems and don't feel the least bit of a need to imitate him. For me, the human lesson and the lesson of care in craft are important and lasting.
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