Readers of this second gathering of Wilbur's occasional prose may be surprised by melancholy undercurrents swelling below the book's expectedly sane and sunny acumen; beneath a tempered surface creep, like Milton's Lucifer, darker subjects. One of the most emotionally complicated pieces is a commentary on his own "Cottage Street, 1953," a poem recounting his strained first meeting with a young Sylvia Plath. Set into relief by the collection's other discussions--Longfellow's "troubled, wavering Ulysses," for example, or Robert Frost's "mental instability that was part of his inheritance (as of mine)"--the poem seems to relate not only an "actual visit," but Wilbur's ongoing encounter with depressive tendencies: "I am better acquainted with depression and alienation than some who romanticize them." Wilbur's analyses of the life and work of poets "shame the Devil" with their sympathetic lucidity, and effect their own particular triumph over despair, that "arch-negator, sprung / from Hell . . . dragging down / And darkening with moody self-absorption." Copyright © 1996, Boston Review. All rights reserved.
-- From The Boston Review
About the Author
RICHARD WILBUR, one of America’s most beloved poets, has served as poet