John Updike

John Updike Poems

The days are short,
The sun a spark,
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.

Pearl Avenue runs past the high-school lot,
Bends with the trolley tracks, and stops, cut off
Before it has a chance to go two blocks,
At Colonel McComsky Plaza. Berth's Garage

Those dutiful dogtrots down airport corridors
while gnawing at a Dunkin' Donuts cruller,
those hotel rooms where the TV remote

She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car.
Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn
To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor

Our last connection with the mythic.
My mother remembers the day as a girl
she jumped across a little spruce

They will not be the same next time. The sayings
so cute, just slightly off, will be corrected.
Their eyes will be more skeptical, plugged in

There was an old poop from Poughkeepsie,
Who tended, at night, to be tipsy.

Black queen on the red king,
the seven on the black
eight, eight goes on the nine, bring
the nine on over, place

'Back from vacation', the barber announces,
or the postman, or the girl at the drugstore, now tan.
They are amazed to find the workaday world

The shadows have their seasons, too.
The feathery web the budding maples
cast down upon the sullen lawn

Just the thought of them makes your jawbone ache:
those turkey dinners, those holidays with
the air around the woodstove baked to a stupor,

Such heat! It brings the brain back to its basic blank.
Small, recurrent events become the daily news—
the white-nosed coati treading the cecropia's

The line didn't move, though there were not
many people in it. In a half-hearted light
the lone agent dealt patiently, noiselessly, endlessly
with a large dazed family ranging

Though authors are a dreadful clan
To be avoided if you can,
I'd like to meet the Indian,
M. Anantanarayanan.

I saw my toes the other day.
I hadn't looked at them for months.
Indeed, they might have passed away.

How long will our bewildered heirs
marooned in possessions not theirs
puzzle at disposing of these three


I sometimes fear the younger generation will be deprived
of the pleasures of hoeing;
there is no knowing

At night—the light turned off, the filament
Unburdened of its atom-eating charge,
His wife asleep, her breathing dipping low

When winter's glaze is lifted from the greens,
And cups are freshly cut, and birdies sing,
Triumphantly the stifled golfer preens

The celebrated windows flamed
with light directly pouring north

John Updike Biography

John Hoyer Updike (18 March 1932 – 27 January 2009) was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic. Updike's most famous work is his Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom series (the novels Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and the novella "Rabbit Remembered"), which chronicles Rabbit's life over the course of several decades, from young adulthood to his death. Both Rabbit Is Rich (1981) and Rabbit At Rest (1990) received the Pulitzer Prize. Updike is one of only three authors (the others were Booth Tarkington and William Faulkner) to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once. He published more than twenty novels and more than a dozen short story collections, as well as poetry, art criticism, literary criticism and children's books. Hundreds of his stories, reviews, and poems appeared in The New Yorker, starting in 1954. He also wrote regularly for The New York Review of Books. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike was well recognized for his careful craftsmanship, his unique prose style, and his prolificity. He wrote on average a book a year. Updike populated his fiction with characters who "frequently experience personal turmoil and must respond to crises relating to religion, family obligations, and marital infidelity." His fiction is distinguished by its attention to the concerns, passions, and suffering of average Americans; its emphasis on Christian theology; and its preoccupation with sexuality and sensual detail. His work has attracted a significant amount of critical attention and praise, and he is widely considered to be one of the great American writers of his time.Updike's highly distinctive prose style features a rich, unusual, sometimes arcane vocabulary as conveyed through the eyes of "a wry, intelligent authorial voice" that extravagantly describes the physical world, while remaining squarely in the realist tradition. He described his style as an attempt "to give the mundane its beautiful due." Updike was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, the only child of Linda Grace (née Hoyer) and Wesley Russell Updike, and grew up in the nearby small town Shillington. The family later moved to the unincorporated village of Plowville. His mother's attempts to be a published writer influenced the young Updike's own aspirations. He later recalled how his mother's writing inspired him as a child. "One of my earliest memories is of seeing her at her desk ... I admired the writer's equipment, the typewriter eraser, the boxes of clean paper. And I remember the brown envelopes that stories would go off in—and come back in. These early years in Berks County, Pennsylvania would influence the environment of the Rabbit Angstrom tetralogy, as well as many of his early novels and short stories. He graduated from Shillington High School as co-valedictorian and class president in 1950 and attended Harvard after receiving a full scholarship. At Harvard, he soon became widely known among his classmates as an extremely talented and prolific contributor to the Harvard Lampoon, of which he served as president, before graduating summa cum laude in 1954 with a degree in English. After graduation, he decided to become a graphic artist and attended The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at the University of Oxford. His early ambition was to be a cartoonist.[9] After returning to the United States, Updike and his family moved to New York, where he became a regular contributor to The New Yorker. This was the beginning of his writing career. Updike married Mary E. Pennington, an art student at Radcliffe College, in 1953. She accompanied him to Oxford, England, where he attended art school and where their first child, Elizabeth, was born in 1955. The couple had three more children together: writer David (born 1957), Michael (born 1959) and Miranda (born 1960). They divorced in 1974. In 1977 Updike married Martha Ruggles Bernhard, with whom he lived for more than thirty years in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. He died of lung cancer at a hospice in Danvers, Massachusetts, on 27 January 2009, at the age of 76.[30][31] Updike had seven grandchildren: Trevor Leonard Updike and Sawyer Michael Updike, Michael's sons; John Anoff Cobblah and Michael Kwame Cobblah, Elizabeth's sons; Kai Daniels Freyleue and Seneca Dunn Freyleue, Miranda's sons; and Wesley Updike, David's son.)

The Best Poem Of John Updike


The days are short,
The sun a spark,
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.

Fat snowy footsteps
Track the floor.
Milk bottles burst
Outside the door.

The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees of lace.

The sky is low.
The wind is gray.
The radiator
Purrs all day.

John Updike Comments

Cannot find John Updike's poem - called (I think) Superman. or Super? ? ?

0 0 Reply
Deb B 12 April 2019

I was astonished at the computer generated reading. So wooden, pausing in odd places, literally shredding the poem. Please, have no voice at all rather than this!

1 0 Reply
Frank Avon 25 October 2014

I am sorry PH does not have more poems by John Updike. Of course, he is best known for his fiction, especially the Rabbit novels. But he is much neglected as an American poet of the 20th century. From the poems - light and serious - in the little paperback book 'Verse, ' published in the 1960s to the captivating works in 'Midpoint' and 'Endpoint, ' he demonstrates his versatility, his good humor, his mastery of diverse poetic forms, and his recurrent themes and mid-American values. I would like to add several of his poems to myfavoritepoem list, but I can't, for they are not included in the PH collection.

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