Anterooms: New Poems and Translations
  • Anterooms: New Poems and Translations
  • Anterooms: New Poems and Translations

Anterooms: New Poems and Translations

by Richard Wilbur

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A new collection of poetry, translations, light verse, and riddles.See more details below


A new collection of poetry, translations, light verse, and riddles.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wilbur, who turns 90 next year, has stood for decades in the front rank of American poets who know how to use traditional forms: his confident rhymes and stanzas are second to none, their poise perhaps unsurpassed since Frost, and like Frost he can combine smooth popular appeal with a startling dark side. One of the best of the new poems, "Terza Rima," remembers a "dead/ Enemy soldier" in WWII whose corpse Wilbur struck with his jeep. Other new poems strive equably to describe the mixed emotions of later life: "Psalm" lauds "the stops of the sweet flute/ Or capering fife," but concludes by asking its musician "in grave relief/ Praise too our sorrows on the/ Cello of shared grief." As in most of his volumes, Wilbur mixes original verse with new translations: "Thirty-Seven Riddles from Symphosius" turns into triple-rhymed pentameter such Latin kennings as "I once was water, and soon shall be again" (i.e., ice). Wilbur, a former poet laureate and Pulitzer winner, has written verse for children, too, and he rounds out the volume with the latest in that line: "If carp is in your carport go find out/ Whether the living room is full of trout." This volume's gems measure up to Wilbur's high standards. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"[Wilbur] stood for decades in the front rank of American poets who know how to use traditional forms: his confident rhymes and stanzas are second to none, their poise perhaps unsurpassed since Frost, and like Frost he can combine smooth popular appeal with a startling dark side. . . . This volume's gems measure up to Wilbur's high standards." —Publishers Weekly

"Richard Wilbur’s imagination has long regarded life in the bud—the seedling, the fledgling, the sprout, the egg. Approaching ninety, this American master is ever more elegantly brooding over beginnings, as in the ‘clenched bloom’ of ‘A Pasture Poem’ in this new volume. His flowering never ceases to unfold." —Mary Jo Salter

"When the Roman poet Horace described what a master poet does, he was describing what the American master poet Richard Wilbur does in his wonderful new book. There’s perfection of music and utterance everywhere in these brave, witty, radiant new poems. There’s exaltation here. He makes it look like child’s play." —David Ferry

"In 1947, Richard Wilbur broke into the literary big leagues with his stunning first collection of poems, The Beautiful Changes; and as Anterooms demonstrates, he is still regularly hitting the ball out of the park sixty-three years later. I can’t think of any other American author who has written so wonderfully well, decade after decade. These remarkable new poems feature his characteristic genius for the right word and for metaphors that startle with their freshness and accuracy. And the poems remind us that his singular achievement has resulted not only from his masterful and continually maturing craftsmanship, but also and even more so, from his appreciative attention to the physical universe and his sympathy with those who inhabit it." —Timothy Steele

"A new collection by our greatest living poet is cause for wonder and gratitude. Wilbur searches both the natural world and the human heart for hard truths he renders with a matchless grace. Anterooms bursts with a ripened and rueful joy. This is a book not just for your shelves but for the ages." —J. D. McClatchy

"For a long time now, Richard Wilbur has reigned as our finest lyric poet. The title still belongs to him, as Anterooms (what a joy!) proves several times over." —X. J. Kennedy

Library Journal
Former poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Wilbur gives us poems that detail both the domestic and the mythic. In "The House," he writes, "What did she tell me of that house of hers?/ White gatepost; terrace; fanlight of the door." Wilbur often writes in tightly controlled tercets and quatrains. In the successful ones the rhyme is not forced and occasionally surprises, but sometimes the line endings go exactly where you'd predict, as in these two segments, "Hoping to wipe the slate/ Before it is too late" and "Therefore I call to mind/ All memories of the kind." In his nature poems, form and language wed and evoke feelings for the landscape that correspond to our human world, "This upstart thistle/ Is young and touchy; it is/ All barb and bristle." Comparing his life to that of a measuring worm, Wilbur writes with a sense of mortality, "Toward what undreamt condition/ Inch by inch I go." The translations include works by Mallarmé, Verlaine (not before translated), Brodsky, and Horace. VERDICT Readers who like traditional poetry will enjoy this varied collection, which offers everything from house and orchard poems to 37 Latin riddles by Symphosius.—Doris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN
David Orr
The better work in Anterooms, however limited in quantity, is as good as anything Wilbur has ever written, and upholds certain virtues other poets would do well to acknowledge, even if they travel roads different from the relatively straight one Wilbur has followed.
—The New York Times

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Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Ecclesiastes 11:1

We must cast our bread
Upon the waters, as the
Ancient preacher said,

Trusting that it may
Amply be restored to us
After many a day.

That old metaphor,
Drawn from rice-farming on the
River's flooded shore,

Helps us to believe
That it's no great sin to give,
Hoping to receive.

Therefore I shall throw
Broken bread, this sullen day,
Out across the snow,

Betting crust and crumb
That birds will gather, and that
One more spring will come.

Galveston, 1961

You who in crazy-lensed
Clear water fled your shape,
By choppy shallows flensed
And shaken like a cape,

Who gently butted down
Through weeds, and were unmade,
Piecemeal stirring your brown
Legs into stirred shade,

And rose, and with pastel
Coronas of your skin
Stained swell on glassy swell,
Letting them bear you in:

Now you have come to shore,
One woman and no other,
Sleek Panope no more,
Nor the vague sea our mother.

Shake out your spattering hair
And sprawl beside me here,
Sharing what we can share
Now that we are so near,

Small-talk and speechless love_-_
Mine being all but dumb
That knows so little of
What goddess you become

And still half-seem to be,
Though close and clear you lie,
Whom droplets of the sea
Emboss and magnify.

stéphane mallarmé:
The Tomb of Edgar Poe

Changed by eternity to Himself at last,
The Poet, with the bare blade of his mind,
Thrusts at a century which had not divined
Death's victory in his voice, and is aghast.

Aroused like some vile hydra of the past
When an angel proffered pure words to mankind,
Men swore that drunken squalor lay behind
His magic potions and the spells he cast.

The wars of earth and heaven_-_O endless grief!
If we cannot sculpt from them a bas-relief
To ornament the dazzling tomb of Poe,

Calm block here fallen from some far disaster,
Then let this boundary stone at least say no
To the dark flights of Blasphemy hereafter.

from the French

Thirty-seven Riddles from Symphosius

1. Nebula
I wear night's face, although not black of skin,
And at high noon I bring the darkness in,
Ere Cynthia's beams, or starlight, can begin.

2. Glacies
I once was water, and soon shall be again.
Strict heaven binds me now by many a chain.
I crack when trodden, and when held give pain.

3. Nix
Light dust of water fallen from the sky,
I'm wet in summer and in winter dry.
Ere I make rivers, whole lands I occupy.

4. Navis
Long daughter of the forest, swift of pace,
In whom old neighbors join as beam and brace,
I speed on many paths, yet leave no trace.

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