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New and Collected Poems (Harvest Book) Paperback – September 18, 1989

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Editorial Reviews Review

These collected poems of the Poet Laureate of the United States are, despite the prevailing view of modern poetry, a monument to the accessible and the beautiful. The language is lush, full "of heat and juice and heavy jammed excess," and deeply thoughtful. His concern for careful human stewardship of nature extends also to the artist's creative struggle to capture the truth of the world. One poignant poem, "The Writer," addresses this through his reaction to listening outside the door as his daughter earnestly struggles to compose a story on her typewriter: "It is always a matter, my darling/Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish/ What I wished you before, but harder." The collection won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1989.

From Publishers Weekly

"Reprinting six of his principal verse collections, this omnibus displays Wilbur's many facets as nature poet, mordant commentator on social mores, philosophizer and as a translator adept at capturing the varied moods of poets as different as Voznesensky,Voznesensky in web.3/lk Borges and Jean de la Fontaine. Included also are 27 new poems, plus the cantata 'On Freedom's Ground'," observed PW. The volume won the Pulitzer Prize.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; First Edition edition (September 18, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156654911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156654913
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #857,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
More than any other American poet, Richard Wilbur has something meaningful to pass on as a legacy to our language and to our culture. The question is, "will that message be heeded?" A WW2 vet, he has witnessed the sacrifice of others of his generation and hoped to make a difference to the next. In a poem he wrote to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty he laments that "we robbed their graves of a reason to die"; not a criticism of liberty, but only on how so many of us choose to waste it. He does not give us didactic Jeremiads, but only warnings all of us need to hear, in a compassionate human kinship. In one of his most famous poems, "Advice to a Prophet", he advises the prophet not to come ranting and raving about our vulnerability to nuclear destruction - but to remind all of us of our ties to the planet, our dependence on it, not just for subsistence, but for our shared human history, our means of expressing ourselves put in peril: "What should we be without the dolphin's arc, the dove's return, these things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?" Not only in the grand follies of mandkind, but also in the petty grind of daily life, "the punctual rape of every blessed day", he is a voice that counsels as a fellow man, and does not pontificate as if from on high. He prays that the wandering eye not be "folly's loophole, but giver of due regard." He discovers (and leads us to our own discovery) of the wonder that is present in mundane existence. Angel feathers in cast out bucket of dirty soap suds. Angels on a creaky tenement clothesline. Constellations in a field of wildflowers. The simultaneous holding and giving of a bouquet by a loved one: "your hands hold roses in a way which says they are not only yours" This is the same way he has written poetry.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 18, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Richard Wilbur, in "A Baroque Fountain in the Villa Sciarra", begins describing the stepped fall of the water by saying: "Under the bronze crown/Too big for the head of the stone cherub whose feet/A serpent has begun to eat/Sweet water brims a cockle and braids down...." Few writers have this sort of precision in observing the things of this world. Unlike Frost, he favors lines of varying length, such that his poems have a sort of cyclical, wavelike quality, sharing some of the lyrical aspects of Dylan Thomas' "Fern Hill" (other examples include Wilbur's "Beasts" and "A Black November Turkey"). Unfortunately, Mr. Wilbur is currently not in favor, as John Masefield is not, among the literati, since formal verse is dying and its technical vocabulary is no longer taught in many creative writing classes. Being unfashionably metrical and favoring rhyme, Mr. Wilbur has been thought by some to be staid and repressed, clinging instead to traditional forms and not having found the liberated, more individualistic voice that instructors of free verse seems to promise. Even when he has been represented in modern anthologies such as the Longman Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, he is included almost apologetically, as if the full landscape of American verse would not be adequately depicted without showing some of its rabble (the Anthology also completely excluded W. H. Auden). However, I would like to point out that not only has Mr. Wilbur won every important literary award for poetry, it sometimes seems that he has won two of each: two Pulitzers, two Bollingens, and a National Book Award, as well as having served as U.S. Poet Laureate. I would also like to apply to Mr.Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Strandjord on May 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Wilbur's poems are simultaneously thoroughly terrestrial and profoundly spiritual. When he describes an object, you see it more concretely than you did before. And at the very same time, you see beyond it, to a world which is infinite in all directions. "Advice from the Muse," "Hamlen Brook," and "The Writer" are especially wonderful, both as craft and as wisdom. These are poems worth memorizing.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Ott VINE VOICE on April 24, 2003
Format: School & Library Binding
This Pulitzer Prize-winning collection contains all of Wilbur (except his great translations of Moliere and Racine) in reverse chronological order of his books from 1989 to 1954. This is the opposite of most poetry collections, so it seems strange to have the poems get less confident as you read on. Still, the final poem, "The Beautiful Changes," is near-perfect and perfectly sums up Wilbur's paradoxical outlook: beauty is eternal and ever-changing.

Wilbur is old school. He is all about meter and rhyme and beauty. His command of sound and sense is second to none alive. (He has edited a collection of Poe's poetry and is famed for his accurate verse translations of Moliere's plays.)

As I read through this book, I put a star by every poem I liked. Flipping through it now, I see there is a star by almost every poem. I did not find Wilbur as deep or as challenging as Frost or Yeats, poets he is compared to by other reviewers on this site. I can, however, appreciate his mastery of the craft of formal poetry. This is not some bad pseudo-Shelley but really a poetry in the language of our time about the issues of our time.

If you detest rhyme, complex stanzas and short, potent lyrics, by all means avoid Mr. Wilbur. But if you find delight in the artful manipulation of language then you are depriving yourself of happiness in not reading this collection.

UPDATE: Wilbur has released a new COLLECTED POEMS in 2004 that supecedes this edition. It only adds a score or so of poems, but I recommend it because there are a few new ones like "Man Running" that no Wilbur fan should be without.
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