Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Anthology 8

Here's one by Richard Wilbur, surely America's greatest living poet.
'Transit' begins with what seems a straightforward epiphany - a moment capturing a vision of beauty - but Wilbur is soon looking aslant at that simplicity ('What use to claim...'), striking a mock-chivalric note. Then it's back to the moment - and the poet hits us with the startling images of the last couplet. As so often with Wilbur, the poem's formal smoothness offsets the strange, marvellous and unexpected things that are going on...


A woman I have never seen before
Steps from the darkness of her town-house door
At just that crux of time when she is made
So beautiful that she or time must fade.

What use to claim that as she tugs her gloves
A phantom heraldry of all the loves
Blares from the lintel? That the staggered sun
Forgets, in his confusion, how to run?

Still, nothing changes as her perfect feet
Click down the walk that issues in the street,
Leaving the stations of her body there
As a whip maps the countries of the air.

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