Larkin in the Dark

By definition, an aubade is "a dawn song expressing the regret of parting lovers at daybreak" (Edward Hirsch, A Poet's Glossary). Today, for the first time, I read Philip Larkin's "Aubade" thanks to a tip within the New York Times Book Review. No lovers for Larkin. And I learned this was his final poem. Fitting, …

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Ada Limón’s Stretch Drive

Last night I finished Ada Limón's new book, The Carrying. It is divided into three parts, and those who believe you should save the best for last will be pleased to hear that the strongest set of poems hide behind Door #3, the stretch drive. Thematically, it covers---in its own novel way---such well-trodden territory as love, …

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What’s in a Name? More Than You’d Think.

Lead-off batters. In baseball, they're the table setters. The speed. The possibility and the hope facing a first pitch. In a poetry collection, the first poem is no small matter, either. St. Billy of Collins says it is damn near everything when it comes to the Department of Importance (a branch of the Department of …

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Why Do Some Poems Inspire You To Write While Others Don’t?

After Roman Coliseum-like spectacles like yesterday's special Senate hearing on the pending Supreme Court nomination, one can't help but curl up in a ball of despair or read poetry. I chose poetry. It took my mind off ugly things and reminded me of what can be beautiful in life. For succor, I chose my copy …

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“The Moment”: Readers Meeting the Just-Right Book

In the introduction to his and Hannah Liebmann's translation of selected Rilke poems, The Essential Rilke, the late Vermont poet Galway Kinnell shares a "moment." You know, one of those moments when reader first meets some wonderful writing. He writes, "The wish to translate Rilke's poetry first came to me in 1948, when I read …

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Finding Your Own Way Up Cold Mountain…

Reading Kazuaki Tanahashi & Peter Levitt's new translation of The Complete Poems of Cold Mountain while also being subjected to news of the Supreme Court nomination hearings of Brett Kavanaugh is a telling study in contrasts. One is pointless, the other enduring. One is noise, the other sound. Where would you be if you didn't …

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