Thursday, 16 November 2017


Writing and speaking about Richard Wilbur over the past two weeks, I was drawn to search through my files looking for work I might have done for him. I found this poem, which I wrote in the fall of 1970, which must have been for his verse writing class. I was 19. I seem to have revised it, only slightly each time, in 1976 and 1977, in Montreal, then in Connecticut, and finally after I moved to Britain, and sent it to at least one magazine each time (I can tell by the return addresses; and I used onion-skin paper in those days, remember that?).

I've done a little more revision now, but it's still basically the same poem. I wish I had the copy I submitted to Wilbur, with his comments; it may be in a box somewhere in my brother's attic. I share it because I think one can sense the influence of Wilbur, and I can feel the awkwardness with which I approach rhyme and particularly meter. In The Wake has never appeared in public before...

The funeral procession plodded by
in single-file cars,
headlights struggling to be seen
against the morning sun.

In front the hearse, the limousines,
behind them black gave way
to cars in motley disarray
until the line was done.

And down the road a flower-painted
old Volkswagen van,
just-married signs and tied-on shoes,
tin cans and blaring horn,

Chugged past like dawn's cacophony.
I stopped and looked both ways to view
Their circling my boundaries
That sunny summer morn.

Sept-Oct 1970, Middletown


Brady Turner said...

I like this. A thoughtful and meditative approach to this life, its beauty and contradictions, the passing of time, convergence of events, the melancholic nature of our condition... life, death, happiness. There’s atmosphere, sound, colour, humour... your essentially sunny nature shines through (whether you like it or not). Interested to know what Wilbur would have commented...

Michael Carlson said...

Thank you...I may have to dig through the boxes to find out...

Brady Turner said...

You should! A good revisiting in this season