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Old 10-18-2001, 09:49 AM
Tom Tom is offline
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[This message has been edited by Tom (edited January 30, 2005).]
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Old 10-19-2001, 04:23 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Two years ago R.S. Gwynn reviewed Berry and Murphy in Chronicles, in an essay cleverly titled "Georgics On My Mind." Of Berry he complained "I have the sense of a great deal of poetry in this book, but I can't find any poems." To my ear the above "poem" is workmanlike lineated prose and belongs on the Free Verse Mastery Board.
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Old 10-19-2001, 06:59 AM
nyctom nyctom is offline
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Well Tom, I do agree it is free verse and not particularly compelling free verse either, though Wendell Berry has written some good stuff. This just doesn't do much for me, but if you like it stick to your guns. If it gives you pleasure then good for you. There isn't enough pleasure in the world as it is.

nyctom
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Old 10-19-2001, 07:04 AM
Tom Tom is offline
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[This message has been edited by Tom (edited January 30, 2005).]
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Old 10-19-2001, 09:56 AM
ChrisW ChrisW is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Tom:


Where could I find thoughts on Wilbur. For some reason I repeatedly read him and don't get a whole lot. To me, he sounds like someone who isn't really going to let you know who he is, like an actor. I don't seem to learn much from him. Block-heads like me are slow learners, but at least I listen, or try to.
Wilbur is fairly reticent in his poetry about the details of his life -- he is almost the opposite of 'confessional'. I don't agree that he's like an actor -- I think he's more like a philosopher -- one for whom seemingly very abstract ideas are quite real and personal.

You could look at "For C" in _Mayflies_ -- it is very personal in a way, and yet is still quite reticent. Also "This Pleasing Anxious Being" -- three poems about his childhood (also in Mayflies).
Wilbur is always striving for generality -- he's trying to speak for all of us, not to get across his own very particular point of view. (Which is not to say that he doesn't have a particular point of view.)
Well, that's how it seems to me -- he might not like that way of putting it.
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Old 10-19-2001, 11:37 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Tom, We've wandered off to a discussion of Wilbur, who is already being discussed on the Dickenson and Wilbur threads. There is no way for a staff member to merge all these discussions, so having edited your header, I shall respond here. For me Wilbur and Frost are poets one grows into, just as Eliot and Dylan Thomas are poets one outgrows. Last night I read cover to cover Philip Hoy's beautiful book-lenth interview with Donald Justice, who once thought Frost was pandering to the masses, but admits that he just didn't have the sophistication in 1948 to realize that Frost was the great poet of his age. When I encountered Wilbur, my comprehension of his work was dim, and I primarily appreciated his fantastic translations of the French: Villon, Jammes, de Thaun, Voltaire, Apollinaire, etc.

I am no Christian; in fact as a homosexual I have long regarded myself as in a minority oppressed by Christians. But Richard has selflessly advised this angry pagan for twenty-three years, and I have grown into his verse. Look again at the elegant similes in Fern-Beds on the adjacent thread, the tide rising through the piers, just as the ferns emerge upslope from the melting snow in his native Berkshire hills. And look also at the poems I mentioned in my answer to Roger Slater on the Dickenson thread.

If you read them as I do, you will find a reticent man, whose revelations are the more powerful for his couching them in his minute observations of the "Things of this World." In fact, the plethora of minute observations give some credence to those critics who regard him as a spectacularly accomplished lightweight. But I read deeply in Wilbur, not shallowly, and I believe that Dick is the worthiest heir to the lyric Christian tradition of George Herbert and John Donne.
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Old 10-19-2001, 12:17 PM
Lilith Lilith is offline
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I have to agree with Tim that one grows into Wilbur. I read him first as a sophomore in college and admired the craft and sheen of his poems; this summer, I re-read his new and collected, the same volume I'd read back then, but this time I found so much there, so much depth and humanity that I'd not recognized when I first encountered his work.

I like Chris W's characterization of Wilbur as a philosopher (then again, I'm married to a philosopher, so perhaps that speaks of a certain bias towards the label). What I like is how even in those lovely moments where he gives the reader glimpses of the personal, he maintains this philosopher's sense of what it all might mean. "In the Field" is like this, I think.

Two of my favorite bits of Wilbur are "A Late Aubade" (which is full of delightful irony, mockery, and tenderness, as well as being quite personal) and the beginning of "Running" --

What were we playing? Was it prisoner's base?
I ran with whacking keds
Down the cart-road past Rickard's place,
And where it dropped beside the tractor-sheds

Leapt out into the air above a blurred
Terrain, through jolted light,
Took two hard lopes, and at the third
Spanked off a hummock-side exactly right,

And made the turn, and with delighted strain
Sprinted across the flat
By the bull-pen, and up the lane.
Thinking of happiness, I think of that.

[This message has been edited by Lilith (edited October 19, 2001).]
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Old 10-19-2001, 12:58 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Wonderful observations, Lilith, but of course Dick is not so much a philospher as he is a lector in the Anglican Church. Late Aubade and Running are two of the many favorites I listed on the Dickenson thread. In a review of Robert Francis' Collected Poems, Donald Hall observed "Like Frost, like Wilbur (who has learned much from him) Francis must be read in bulk." So I am delighted that you reread the New and Collected. Your experience of that indefatiguably inexhaustible book matches my own. But now you must read Mayflies. For the salvation of your Soul.
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Old 10-19-2001, 03:55 PM
Lilith Lilith is offline
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Thanks, Tim -- I've been meaning to immerse myself in Mayflies. Now that I know salvation is on the line, I'll be sure to do so very soon. I'm sure my soul will thank me.

My husband would say that one can be philosopher and also be many things. But your point about Wilbur is well taken. I think it is interesting to keep it in mind as one reads his work.

Lilith
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Old 10-19-2001, 06:35 PM
nyctom nyctom is offline
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Well Lilith and Tim,

I am unemployed and broke, but based on your recommendation I finally relented and used the last of my Barnes & Noble gift certificate and bought the Wilber Collected works. Mostly because of the poems posted here and because of Tim linking him to George Herbert. Roger Slater just got me to read Herbert, and gay Irish/American ex-Catholic that I am, I am wholely (pun half-intended) in love with him. So which of the Wilbur books in here should I start with?

nyctom

[This message has been edited by nyctom (edited October 19, 2001).]
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