Monday, April 5, 2010

Richard Wilbur

American Episcopalian (Anglican) poet Richard Wilbur was born in 1921. He has received many honours including the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1987 he was appointed as the second Poet Laureate of the United States. He stands out among contemporary poets, in that he uses metre in most of his poems, and frequently also uses rhyme.

In his work he seeks to make connections between the visible and the invisible — between the physical and spiritual worlds. This is demonstrated well in the following poem, which is one of his favourites, and one of his best known:

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 in 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 blessed 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."

This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Richard Wilbur: second post, third post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: