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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Richard Wilbur

Big news on the street: Pulitzer Prize winning poet Richard Wilbur will be speaking at 7 pm on Saturday, June 2, in Connecticut. Details here: . While I haven't read as much of him as I wish, I'm always delighted when I do actually take the time. This is one of my favorites:

The Reader
She is going back, these days, to the great stories
That charmed her younger mind. A shaded light
Shines on the nape half-shadowed by her curls,
And a page turns now with a scuffing sound.
Onward they come again, the orphans reaching
For a first handhold in a stony world,
The young provincials who at last look down
On the city’s maze, and will descend into it,
The serious girl, once more, who would live nobly,
The sly one who aspires to marry so,
The young man bent on glory, and that other
Who seeks a burden. Knowing as she does
What will become of them in bloody field
Or Tuscan garden, it may be that at times
She sees their first and final selves at once,
As a god might to whom all time is now.
Or, having lived so much herself, perhaps
She meets them this time with a wiser eye,
Noting that Julien’s calculating head
Is from the first too severed from his heart.
But the true wonder of it is that she,
For all that she may know of consequences,
Still turns enchanted to the next bright page
Like some Natasha in the ballroom door—
Caught in the flow of things wherever bound,
The blind delight of being, ready still
To enter life on life and see them through.

 And if that didn't do it for you, probably his best known poem is Love Calls Us to the Things of This World. I tend to disagree with his impulsive cry in support of laundry, and imagine his wife has done his for him for decades. Anyway, you should read it. And then, come to Connecticut on June 2nd.


  1. I will never forget my undergraduate discovery of Love Calls Us to Things of This World. Holding a volume of Wilbur's poetry makes it impossible for me to consider using a Nook or a Kendall, or other infernal device.

    1. I remember reading it in undergrad for the first time, too. The floating nuns were the image that stayed with me.

      As for nooks and kindles, in theory I agree with you. Backpacking across country makes them seem more reasonable, though, and, as far as efficiency is concerned, they really can't be beat. And books are cheaper! Cool! But I NEED to be able to write in a book. Also, I feel like a elitist patron of the arts (which I kind of like) when I pay the extra few dollars to buy a physical copy of a book, especially if it's from a private bookstore, not a Barnes and Noble or Borders. And really, it comes down to the same difference that there is between an email and a handwritten letter. Why go electronic when you could go personal?

  2. What a beautiful picture, the little girl sitting amidst the books. That's one for any woman's autobiography. Doesn't matter who the girl is. I'd claim it as a picture of me if it was not so obviously a female. The universal caption, "From a very early age, [your name here] found herself captivated by books. An obsession that has only increased throughout her life."

    1. Yes, I love this picture too! I don't know who she is. Google image probably does, though. I have a few more similar ones that I'm saving for an appropriate moment. Consider your appetite whetted.