Friday, May 19, 2006

Finally come to their senses

Poetry, that is. Naming Richard Wilbur the recipient of the Ruth Lilly Prize.

I thought they'd never wake up and smell the poetry. This is a poet whose body of work is really worthy of a $100,000 prize. Whatever you think of it, his Collected, which I got last year, shows a mature talent that spans many years and fads and has weathered it all with grace.

It seems odd to me that the magazine is so blandified -- so all-poems-as-written-by-one-person -- and the Ruth Lilly Prize shows more breadth of understanding of the vast diversity of American poetry.

Christian Wiman, the majordomo now at Poetry, said of the award:

"If you had to put all your money on one living poet whose work will be read in a hundred years, Richard Wilbur would be a good bet. He has written some of the most memorable poems of our time, and his achievement rivals that of great American poets like Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bishop."


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Book of Being

My daily dose of Savitri:

Thus could he step into that magic place
Which few can even glimpse with hurried glance
Lifted for a moment from mind's laboured works
And the poverty of Nature's earthly sight.
All that the Gods have learned is there self-known.
There in a hidden chamber closed and mute
Are kept the record graphs of the cosmic scribe,
And there the tables of the sacred Law,
There is the Book of Being's index page;

-- Aurobindo Ghose

The Book of Being's index page . . . that was the stunner. I have been reading Aurobindo's marvelous book, The Future Poetry, in which he describes the different levels of poetic inspiration. I have to think that line is from the topmost level. It's the combination of the majestic Book of Being with index page that catches my breath.

Have you had your Savitri today?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stanley Kunitz

Stanley Kunitz

We all knew he couldn't live forever -- could he? But the picture of the poet at 100 years old, full of verbal vigor and lyrics might inspired those of us writing past the half-century mark to again consider ourselves young poets. I thought, when I heard the news, that I wish I had sent him my book. It would have no doubt landed in a great pile, but would have added to the visible tribute nevertheless, even if it lay in a corner unread.

I also thought of lines from his poem "The Round", one of my all-time favorites:

I pick my notebook up
and I start to read aloud
the still-wet words I scribbled
on the blotted page:
"Light splashed . . ."
I can scarcely wait till tomorrow
whena new life begins for me,
as it does each day,
as it does each day.

May your new life be splashed with supernal light, Stanley. May the new day you now embark on turn its fresh pages with the shake of anemone petals and of late-blooming roses. May it be full of curious gladness.