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« "The Definition of Gardening" [by James Tate] | Main | "I Took a Creative Writing Class" [by Molly Arden] »

January 20, 2021


But don't you suspect Percy cheated a little bit? Had a few lines, maybe a sestet, stored in the monogramed valise of his mind, ready for just such an occasion? I know I always keep some poesy on the back burner when I'm hanging with my banker friends. You never know.

Reminds me of a poem written by a long-ago friend of mine, Reed Clarke, a Canadian poet, about a room full of civil servants/poets participating in a poetry contest. The poem ends "No one looks up/TuFu will win." Funny what you remember.

I like "No one looks up / Tu Fu will win."

Dear JC, "the monogramed valise of his mind" is worth the price of admission. Shelley could write very rapidly and think in rhyme and meter and I do not believe he would have cheated. This was the eighth or ninth "masterpiece" column I did for the WSJ -- others were on Herbert, Marvell, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Yeats, Frost, Auden, and I'm leaving someone out. After this one came out, they sort of dropped me, though I don't think the provocative headline, "What Trumps Vain Boasts," did me in.
Thanks for commenting!

Thanks for this wonderful reading of the poem. I was amazed and thrilled when it made a brief appearance in the Coen Bros. film, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, delivered brilliantly by Harry Melling:

Terence, YES, and it was in another movie that I can't recall; a young woman recited it, maybe in an all-girls school. I can see and hear her doing it, but I can't place the damn movie.

Thank you for this commentary!
Could you post your other "masterpiece" columns on this site, or if you already have, perhaps you could refer me to those webpages?

Now that US pandemic deaths have surpassed half a million, I have been trying to memorize "Shiloh" by Herman Melville (though my 60+ memory is not being cooperative), a poem which to me seems acutely timely ...
I would love to read your analysis of this poem if you would be so inclined to post it here.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Slow Reader. My piece on a George Herbert poem will be posted on April 2nd. Melville's "Shiloh" is very fine, and I chose it for "The Oxford Book of American Poetry." Melville is altogether undervalued as a poet.

Slow Reader: check out this reading of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner":

Thanks so much for the link to your commentary on "Ancient Mariner" as well as including links to the your other commentaries and the "Great Poems" in left sidebar!
I will look forward to your thoughts on George Herbert, with "Redemption" being one of my very favorite poems.

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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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