Richard Wilbur’s book Mayflies: New Poems and Translations will be published in April. (November 2000)

To a Comedian

You stand up for the interests of folk Who need a bedroom or a bathroom joke, Told with a drumfire of such words as shit, To free them from repressions for a bit. It pays, you find, to give them what they’re after. You are …

The Mind-Reader

(Lui Parla.) Some things are truly lost. Think of a sun-hat Laid for the moment on a parapet While three young women—one, perhaps, in mourning— Talk in the crenellate shade. A slight wind plucks And budges it; it scuffs to the edge and cartwheels …

Two Poems

PLAYBOY High on his stockroom ladder like a dunce The stock-boy sits, and studies like a sage The subject matter of one glossy page, As lost in curves as cchimedes once. Sometimes, without a glance, he feeds himself. The left hand, like a mother-bird in flight, Brings him a sandwich …

The Poe Mystery Case

Poe’s is the shakiest of all large American reputations, and yet, if I remember rightly a statement of Malcolm Cowley’s, there have been more studies of him than of any other native writer. There is, as Whitman said, an “indescribable magnetism” about Poe’s much romanticized life, and that would be …

Five Poems by Andrei Voznesensky

NOTE ON TRANSLATION: These poems are taken from a collection of translations of the work of Andrei Voznesensky, Antiworlds, edited by Patricia Blake and Max Hayward, and to be published by Basic Books in May. Apart from being an attempt to present the work of a young Russian poet who …

The Lilacs

Those laden lilacs Came stark, spindly, Like walking wounded We watched them waken To rot and rootbreak, And saw them shiver Of night and numbness Out of present pain Their bullet-shaped buds As if they aimed But the sun …

Longfellow

After his second wife’s horrible death by fire, in 1861, Longfellow’s face was too seared to be shaven, and he grew a beard. It was this beard in which he was received by Queen Victoria, toasted by Gladstone and seen by a vast international public as the foremost of American …