Monday, March 28, 2011

Richard Wilbur*

Richard Wilbur has recently had a new poetry collection published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Anterooms (2010) is a slender volume — which consists of just eighteen new poems, five poems translated from French, Latin and Russian, and his translation of 37 riddles. Even so, it invites us intimately to join Wilbur in his poetic vision and his view of life.

It may suggest humility for such a celebrated poet to give as much attention to translating the work of others as Richard Wilbur has in recent years. One particular focus for Wilbur has been the plays of Molière — seven of which he’s now translated.

In Anterooms, his first new poetry book in a decade, Richard Wilbur remains dedicated to traditional structures. Only one poem neglects rhyme. Some poems are deeply reflective — springing from such things as a verse in Ecclesiastes, or the poet’s observations of an inch worm; some poems are playful — such as “Some Words Inside of Words” which is addressed, in part, to children.

The following poem first appeared in First Things (May 2009).


Give thanks for all things
On the plucked lute, and likewise
The harp of ten strings.

Have the lifted horn
Greatly blare, and pronounce it
Good to have been born.

Lend the breath of life
To the stops of the sweet flute
Or capering fife,

And tell the deep drum
To make, at the right juncture,

Then, in grave relief,
Praise too our sorrows on the
Cello of shared grief.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Richard Wilbur: first 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: