Richard Wilbur

(March 1, 1921)

Richard Wilbur
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Richard Purdy Wilbur is an American poet and literary translator. He was appointed the second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987, and twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1957 and again in 1989.

Biography

Early years

Wilbur was born in New York City and grew up in North Caldwell, New Jersey. He graduated from Montclair High School in 1938, having worked on the school newspaper as a student there. He graduated from Amherst College in 1942 and then served in the United States Army from 1943 to 1945 during World War II. After the Army and graduate school at Harvard University, Wilbur taught at Wesleyan University ... more »

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  • John Beaton John Beaton (9/1/2018 1:08:00 AM)

    Richard Wilbur, for me, was an exemplar. I read his work and choked up. His sentiments were gracefully constrained, passionate all the same, and often overwhelmingly beautiful (e.g. his anthem for life-long love, For C) , but the craft was dazzling. Mayflies inspired me in form as well as in image. I met him once. He was a fine gentleman.

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  • Ruth Stalker (11/16/2017 9:20:00 AM)

    Where is On the Marginal Way by Richard Wilbur?

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  • Nancy Howell (8/20/2015 4:54:00 PM)

    Where is Seed Leaves by Richard Wilbur?

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  • Mandy Gair (8/15/2015 9:14:00 PM)

    I would love to see Mind included in Wilbur's list. Such a masterful combination of word play cleverness and artistry, as is most of his work.

    Mind

    Mind in its purest play is like some bat
    That beats about in caverns all alone,
    Contriving by a kind of senseless wit
    Not to conclude against a wall of stone.

    It has no need to falter or explore;
    Darkly it knows what obstacles are there,
    And so may weave and flitter, dip and soar
    In perfect courses through the blackest air.

    And has this simile a like perfection?
    The mind is like a bat. Precisely. Save
    That in the very happiest of intellection
    A graceful error may correct the cave.

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  • Rick Telander (6/30/2015 1:09:00 AM)

    I have long had Wilbur's poem, ``Man Running, '' on my home office bulletin board. When I first read it in the NewYorker Magazine, it gave me shivers. How did Wilbur know exactly how I felt when a man was on the run, a bad man, most certainly, pursued by hounds and the law and uniformed men with guns, and my hopes were all with the man running?
    Because we have ``fidelity to childhood games/And outlaws of romance, We darkly cheer him, whether or not/ He robbed that store, or bank, or fired that shot/And wish him, guiltily, a sporting chance.''
    When Richard Matt and David Sweat, convicted murderers, escaped from Dannemora, NY Penitentiary and were on the run for those three weeks in June, just ended, I was hoping dimly and remotely for their success. Perhaps, I dreamed, they would alight after their frenzied, tortuous run on a foreign, tropical beach and quietly live out their days in small victory against the man
    But Matt was killed by searchers, and Sweat was shot and captured. They were dangerous, guilty cons, but I still learned the news of their failure with a sigh.
    How did Wilbur know this side of us, we the civilized? Does he know how modern, how true his poem is?
    And not just for me, but for others I have spoken with and feel the same. In my dreams I often was running, running, from something gaining on me, in terror, heart-racing, alive and primal. No doubt it's because I, like Wilbur's narrator, ``Remembered from the day/ When we descended from the trees/Into the shadow of our enemies/Not lords of nature yet, but naked prey.''
    Still makes me shiver. Makes me think. What a poet. - Rick Telander

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  • Frank Avon (10/28/2014 2:43:00 AM)

    I wish you could include 'Digging for China' in your PH list. It's delightful for children, humorous for adults, and clever for poets themselves. It pairs well with Elizabeth Bishop's fish, as unlike as they are (as one of my students pointed out to me): if you read them both, you'll see why. Regrettably it makes reference to 'a coolie, ' which in the political correctness of our day would make it highly objectionable, but one should remember the era in which it was wirtten (1956) . Here are its lush climactic lines: '... the earth went round / And showed me silver barns, the fields dozing / In palls of brightness, patens growing and gone / In the tides of leaves, and the whole sky china blue.' But you have to read to the last line to get the surprise and the witty point of the poem.

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  • Saiom Shriver (3/31/2012 12:56:00 PM)

    The following is my favorite Richard Wilbur poem. It awakened my love of poetry, especially the first stanza.
    Many of us would be grateful if you added it to your Wilbur collection.

    Two Voices in a Meadow – Richard Wilbur


    A Milkweed

    Anonymous as cherubs
    Over the crib of God,
    White seeds are floating
    Out of my burst pod.
    What power had I
    Before I learned to yield?
    Shatter me, great wind:
    I shall possess the field

    A Stone

    As casual as cow-dung
    Under the rib of God,
    I lie where chance would have me,
    Up to the ears in sod.
    Why should I move? To move
    Befits a light desire.
    The sill of heaven would founder,
    Did such as I aspire.

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Best Poem of Richard Wilbur

Juggler

A ball will bounce; but less and less. It's not
A light-hearted thing, resents its own resilience.
Falling is what it loves, and the earth falls
So in our hearts from brilliance,
Settles and is forgot.
It takes a sky-blue juggler with five red balls

To shake our gravity up. Whee, in the air
The balls roll around, wheel on his wheeling hands,
Learning the ways of lightness, alter to spheres
Grazing his finger ends,
Cling to their courses there,
Swinging a small heaven about his ears.

But a heaven is easier made of nothing at all
Than the ...

Read the full of Juggler
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