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« "Oak Hill, West Virginia" [by Mary Jo Salter) | Main | What Really Happened: November 22, 1963 [by David Lehman] »

November 20, 2020


How would one distinguish this composition from someone's diary notes, notes of thoughts and notions to be developed further, as time allows? In other words, where is the artfulness, where is the care to cut away the dross, to reveal a glossy nugget of wisdom, which poetry invented itself to do?

Dear Dave, Thank you for commenting. You make a cogent case for "artfulness" and the value of the "glossy nugget of wisdom" that we find in, for example, any of three dozen of Robert Frost's poems, which I love. Yet I enjoy poetry that obeys a different imperative in its goal of giving pleasure, which Wordsworth wrote is the poet's first obligation. This poem by Moly Arden charmed me, because of its calculated artlessness. It sounds so very random, yet the poem rhymes, it has a formal unity; and in its casual way it is symmetrical ("She" begins stanza four, "He" begins stanza four) and hints at a narrative -- of the breakup of a marriage. So I guess I would defend "diary notes" while loving, advocating and teaching the sort of poems that would, I imagine, meet your criteria as well as mine (e.g. The Canonization, The Garden, Tintern Abbey, Tithonus, Prufrock, Sunday Morning). -- DL

Dear Dave, We have described the poles well enough; if we're not careful, someone will suggest a third way! Thank you for your service, on all of our behalf.

Very interesting!

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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