William De Witt Snodgrass

William De Witt Snodgrass Poems

The green catalpa tree has turned
All white; the cherry blooms once more.
In one whole year I haven't learned
A blessed thing they pay you for.

Child of my winter, born
When the new fallen soldiers froze
In Asia's steep ravines and fouled the snows,
When I was torn

Sorting out letters and piles of my old
Canceled checks, old clippings, and yellow note cards
That meant something once, I happened to find
Your picture. That picture. I stopped there cold,

The eyelids glowing, some chill morning.
O world half-known through opening, twilit lids
Before the vague face clenches into light;
O universal waters like a cloud,

'One Snodgrass, two Snodgrass, three Snodgrass, four . . .
I took my own rollcall when I counted seconds;
'One two three, Two two three, Three . . .,' the drum score
Showed only long rests to the tympani's entrance.

After experience taught me that all the ordinary
Surroundings of social life are futile and vain;
I’m going to show you something very
Ugly: someday, it might save your life.

What’s unseen may not exist—
Or so those secret powers insist
That prowl past nightfall,
Enabled by the brain’s blacklist

These lawn chairs and the chaise lounge
of bulky redwood were purchased for my father
twenty years ago, then plumped down in the yard
where he seldom went when he could still work

My pale stepdaughter, just off the school bus,
Scowled, 'Well, that's the last time I say my name's
Snodgrass!' Just so, may that anonymous
Mexican male who prodigally claims

As we drove back, crossing the hill,
The house still
Hidden in the trees, I always thought—
A fool’s fear—that it might have caught

This is the needle that we give
Soldiers and children when they live
Near the front in primitive
Conditions or real dangers;

Is it, then, your opinion
Women are putty in your hands?
Is this the face to launch upon
A thousand one night stands?


Observe the cautious toadstools
still on the lawn today
though they grow over-evening;
sun shrinks them away.

Up the reputable walks of old established trees
They stalk, children of the nouveaux riches; chimes
Of the tall Clock Tower drench their heads in blessing:
“I don't wanna play at your house;

Admire, when you come here, the glimmering hair
Of the girl; praise her pale
Complexion. Think well of her dress
Though that is somewhat out of fashion.

And why, Herr Reichsmarschall, is Italy
Just like schnitzel? If they’re beaten
Either one will just get bigger.
Neither cuts too firm a figure.

There is no one here.
But the objects: they are real. It is not
As if he had stepped out or moved away;
There is no other room and no

William De Witt Snodgrass Biography

William De Witt Snodgrass was an American poet who also wrote under the pseudonym S. S. Gardons. He won the 1960 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Life W. D. Snodgrass was born on January 5, 1926 in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania; the family lived in Wilkinsburg, but drove to Beaver Falls for his birth since his grandfather was a doctor in the town. Eventually the family moved to Beaver Falls and Snodgrass graduated from the local high school in 1943. He then attended Geneva College until 1944 and had an offer from the Juilliard School for admission because of his musical abilities on the timpani, but he was drafted into the United States Navy before he could accept. After demobilization in 1946, Snodgrass transferred to the University of Iowa and enrolled in the Iowa Writers' Workshop, originally intending to become a playwright but eventually joining the poetry workshop which was attracting as teachers some of the finest poetic talents of the day, among them John Berryman, Randall Jarrell and Robert Lowell. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949, a Master of Arts degree in 1951, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1953. Snodgrass was known to friends throughout his life as "De", pronounced "dee", but only published using his initials. He had a long and distinguished academic career, having taught at Cornell (1955-7), Rochester (1957-8), Wayne State (1959–68), Syracuse (1968–1977), Old Dominion (1978-9), and the University of Delaware. He retired from teaching in 1994 to devote himself full-time to his writing. This included autobiographical sketches, essays, and the critical verse 'deconstructions' of De/Construct. He died in his home in Madison County, New York, aged 83, following a four-month battle with lung cancer, and was survived by his fourth wife, writer Kathleen Snodgrass. Snodgrass had married his first wife, Lila Jean Hank, in 1946, by whom he had a daughter, Cynthia Jean. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1953 and it was the separation from his daughter as a result that became the subject of his first collection, Heart's Needle. The following year Snodgrass married his second wife, Janice Marie Ferguson Wilson. Together they have a son, Russell Bruce, and a stepdaughter, Kathy Ann Wilson. Divorcing again in 1966, he married his third wife, Camille Rykowski in 1967 but this ended in 1978. His fourth marriage to Kathleen Ann Brown was in 1985. Literary Career Snodgrass's first poems appeared in 1951, and throughout the 1950s he published in some of the most prestigious magazines: Botteghe Oscure, Partisan Review, The New Yorker, The Paris Review and The Hudson Review. However, in 1957, five sections from a sequence entitled 'Heart's Needle' were included in Hall, Pack and Simpson's anthology, New Poets of England and America, and these were to mark a turning-point. When Lowell had been shown early versions of these poems, in 1953, he had disliked them, but now he was full of admiration. By the time Heart's Needle was published, in 1959, Snodgrass had already won The Hudson Review Fellowship in Poetry and an Ingram Merrill Foundation Poetry Prize. However, his first book brought him more: a citation from the Poetry Society of America, a grant from the National Institute of Arts, and, most important of all, 1960's Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. It is often said that Heart's Needle inaugurated confessional poetry. Snodgrass disliked the term. Still, it should be pointed out that the genre he was reviving here seemed revolutionary to most of his contemporaries, reared as they had been on the anti-expressionistic principles of the New Critics. Snodgrass's confessional work was to have a profound effect on many of his contemporaries, amongst them, most importantly, Robert Lowell. Being tagged with this label affected his work and its reception and forced him into small-press publication for many years. Two new themes (eventually) restored his reputation, although at the time they first began to appear there was a perception by some that Snodgrass had 'wrecked his career'. One was The Führer Bunker cycle of poems, monologues by Hitler and his circle in the closing days of the Third Reich, a 'poem in progress' that began to appear from 1977 onwards and was finally completed in 1995. An adaptation of these for the stage was performed in the 1980s. The other theme was the series written in response to DeLoss McGraw's surrealistic paintings, which eventually grew into a partnership. In these poems, often uproariously rhymed, Snodgrass stood his former confessional style on its head at the same time as satirising contemporary attitudes.)

The Best Poem Of William De Witt Snodgrass

April Inventory

The green catalpa tree has turned
All white; the cherry blooms once more.
In one whole year I haven't learned
A blessed thing they pay you for.
The blossoms snow down in my hair;
The trees and I will soon be bare.

The trees have more than I to spare.
The sleek, expensive girls I teach,
Younger and pinker every year,
Bloom gradually out of reach.
The pear tree lets its petals drop
Like dandruff on a tabletop.

The girls have grown so young by now
I have to nudge myself to stare.
This year they smile and mind me how
My teeth are falling with my hair.
In thirty years I may not get
Younger, shrewder, or out of debt.

The tenth time, just a year ago,
I made myself a little list
Of all the things I'd ought to know,
Then told my parents, analyst,
And everyone who's trusted me
I'd be substantial, presently.

I haven't read one book about
A book or memorized one plot.
Or found a mind I did not doubt.
I learned one date.And then forgot.
And one by one the solid scholars
Get the degrees, the jobs, the dollars.

And smile above their starchy collars.
I taught my classes Whitehead's notions;
One lovely girl, a song of Mahler's.
Lacking a source-book or promotions,
I showed one child the colors of
A luna moth and how to love.

I taught myself to name my name,
To bark back, loosen love and crying;
To ease my woman so she came,
To ease an old man who was dying.
I have not learned how often I
Can win, can love, but choose to die.

I have not learned there is a lie
Love shall be blonder, slimmer, younger;
That my equivocating eye
Loves only by my body's hunger;
That I have forces true to feel,
Or that the lovely world is real.

While scholars speak authority
And wear their ulcers on their sleeves,
My eyes in spectacles shall see
These trees procure and spend their leaves.
There is a value underneath
The gold and silver in my teeth.

Though trees turn bare and girls turn wives,
We shall afford our costly seasons;
There is a gentleness survives
That will outspeak and has its reasons.
There is a loveliness exists,
Preserves us, not for specialists.

William De Witt Snodgrass Comments

Antonia Baranov 19 December 2017

So powerful need time to fully comprehend. Will read again, and again.

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kskdnj sajn 30 May 2006

Monet: “Les Nymphéas” by W. D. Snodgrass The eyelids glowing, some chill morning. O world half-known through opening, twilit lids Before the vague face clenches into light; O universal waters like a cloud, Like those first clouds of half-created matter; O all things rising, rising like the fumes From waters falling, O forever falling; Infinite, the skeletal shells that fall, relinquished, The snowsoft sift of the diatoms, like selves Downdrifting age upon age through milky oceans; O slow downdrifting of the atoms; O island nebulae and O the nebulous islands Wandering these mists like falsefires, which are true, Bobbing like milkweed, like warm lanterns bobbing Through the snowfilled windless air, blinking and passing As we pass into the memory of women Who are passing. Within those depths What ravening? What devouring rage? How shall our living know its ends of yielding? These things have taken me as the mouth an orange— That acrid sweet juice entering every cell; And I am shared out. I become these things: These lilies, if these things are water lilies Which are dancers growing dim across no floor; These mayflies; whirled dust orbiting in the sun; This blossoming diffused as rushlights; galactic vapors; Fluorescence into which we pass and penetrate; O soft as the thighs of women; O radiance, into which I go on dying...

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Laura Laub 10 June 2004

For Mr. W. D. Snodgrass If I could only write your way That would be my happiest day To touch the soul of every kind To open up every mind Oh, if Icould only write your way What is it I would say? Your words, your thoughts Will always stay Imbedded in my heart Til darkness has swept me away

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