The New York Times
Anterooms: New Poems and Translationsby Richard Wilbur
A yellow-striped, green measuring worm/i>
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Poetry lovers and critics will rejoice at the news of this collection from Richard Wilbur, the legendary poet and translator who was called “a hero to a new generation of critics” by the New York Times Book Review, and whose work continues to be masterful, accomplished, whimsical, fresh, and important.
A yellow-striped, green measuring worm opens Anterooms, a collection filled with poems that are classic Wilbur, that play with myth and form and examine the human condition through reflections on nature and love. Anterooms also features masterly translations from Mallarmé’s “The Tomb of Edgar Allan Poe,” a previously unpublished Verlaine poem, two poems by Joseph Brodsky, and thirty-seven of Symphosius’s clever Latin riddles.
Whether he is considering a snow shovel and domestic life or playfully considering that “Inside homeowner is the word meow,” Wilbur’s new collection is sure to delight everyone from longtime devotees to casual poetry readers. Exploring the interplay between the everyday and the mythic, the sobering and the lighthearted, Anterooms is nothing less than an event in poetic history and a remarkable addition to a master’s oeuvre.
The New York Times
"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
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Read an Excerpt
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meet the Author
RICHARD WILBUR, one of America’s most beloved poets, has served as poet laureate of the United States. He has received the National Book Award, two Pulitzer Prizes, the National Arts Club medal of honor for literature, and a number of translation prizes, including two Bollingen Prizes and two awards from PEN.
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