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Collected Poems, 1953-1993
     

Collected Poems, 1953-1993

by John Updike
 

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“The idea of verse, of poetry, has always, during forty years spent working primarily in prose, stood at my elbow, as a standing invitation to the highest kind of verbal exercise—the most satisfying, the most archaic, the most elusive of critical control.  In hotel rooms and airplanes, on beaches and Sundays, at junctures of personal happiness or its

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“The idea of verse, of poetry, has always, during forty years spent working primarily in prose, stood at my elbow, as a standing invitation to the highest kind of verbal exercise—the most satisfying, the most archaic, the most elusive of critical control.  In hotel rooms and airplanes, on beaches and Sundays, at junctures of personal happiness or its opposite, poetry has comforted me with its hope of permanence, its packaging of flux.”
                Thus John Updike writes in introducing his Collected Poems.  The earliest poems here date from 1953, when Updike was twenty-one, and the last were written after he turned sixty.  Almost all of those published in his five previous collections are included, with some revisions.  Arranged in chronological order, the poems constitute, as he says, “the thread backside of my life’s fading tapestry.”  An ample set of notes at the back of the book discusses some of the hidden threads, and expatiates upon a number of fine points.
                Nature—tenderly intricate, ruthlessly impervious—is a constant and ambiguous presence in these poems, along with the social observation one would expect in a novelist.  No occasion is too modest or too daily to excite metaphysical wonder, or to provoke a lyrical ingenuity of language.  Yet even the wittiest of the poems are rooted to the ground of experience and fact.  “Seven Odes to Seven Natural Processes” attempt to explicate the physical world with a directness seldom attempted in poetry.  Several longer poems—“Leaving Church Early,” “Midpoint”—use autobiography to proclaim the basic strangeness of existence.

Editorial Reviews

Donna Seaman
Updike is a national treasure, a cascade of language bubbling and surging ceaselessly into pools of fiction, criticism, and verse. His collected poetry is a sparkling, whirling, and warming wealth of art, mind, and temperament. Forty years of poems chart 40 years of life lived pen in hand, glint in eye, glow in soul. From the outset Updike's poems are crisp and exact. There is a mock humbleness, ready wit, and divine concreteness to his subjects, an unrelenting curiosity behind his descriptions, and a prodding tension between the tactile and the abstract, the double "I" of body and thought. Updike writes about storm windows, shopping, clouds, women's bodies, and the "natural processes" of rot, growth, crystallization, and healing. He sketches places--the Ohio countryside, Charleston, Oxford, Rio de Janeiro, Indianapolis--with a seer's gift for distillation. Cocktail parties, hospitals, airplanes, bathrooms, and beds are all settings for revelations dramatic, ironic, bemused, or regretful. From the cocky exuberance of "Midpoint," a 1968 autobiographical cycle, to the wry, tender mischief of poems about domesticity, marriage, and aging, Updike's thrill over the unending discovery of poetry inspires images and metaphors of time-stopping perfection as well as humor rich in grace and knowingness.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307961976
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/25/2012
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
1,171,242
File size:
4 MB

Read an Excerpt

Seven Stanzas at Easter

Make no mistake: if He rose at all it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit,
the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then regathered out of enduring Might new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of time will eclipse for each of us the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

Meet the Author

John Updike was the author of more than sixty books, eight of them collections of poetry. His novels, including The Centaur, Rabbit Is Rich, and Rabbit at Rest, won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He died in January 2009.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
March 18, 1932
Date of Death:
January 27, 2009
Place of Birth:
Shillington, Pennsylvania
Place of Death:
Beverly Farms, MA
Education:
A.B. in English, Harvard University, 1954; also studied at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art in Oxford, England

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