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The Four Seasons: Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets Series) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 3, 2008
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About the Author
J. D. McClatchy is a poet and Professor of English at Yale University. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His book Hazmat (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002) was nominated for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize. He edits the "Voice of the Poet" series for Random House AudioBooks; and has written texts for musical settings, including eight opera libretti, for such composers as William Schuman, Ned Rorem, Lorin Maazel, Bruce Saylor, Lowell Liebermann, and Elliot Goldenthal. His honors include an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has also been one of the New York Public Literary Lions, and received the 2000 Connecticut Governor's Arts Award. He received the 1991 fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, and served as an Academy Chancellor from 1996 until 2003. He has edited or co-edited four previous Everyman's Library Pocket Poet volumes.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION
The seasons are both segments of time and states of mind. Though ourword ‘‘season’’ derives from the Latin for ‘‘sowing’’ and refers thereby only to spring, every culture has had terms – whether winter and summer, or rainy and dry – for the sequence of great climatic changes by which the world transforms itself every year. But it’s more than what is going on outside. Our hearts have seasons as well. Mostly, we call them moods, and we lay our plans by their accustomed recurrences. We recall the crucial moments in our lives by the weather that still swirls around them in memory. Weddings and family reunions, getaways and homecomings are most often scheduled by the season. Yes, we have urgent appointments and traditional holidays, our deadlines and habits. But our bodies and their tides of desire seem to move more slowly, and are governed by the larger, more dramatic and decisive movements of the sun itself – the arrival of light and the opulence of warmth, then their slow fading and cold withdrawal. Aren’t, in fact, the seasons like the stages of a love affair?
This is where the poets come in. They are enthusiasts and brooders. Love and death are their stock-in-trade. But first of all, they are observers. A strong imagination begins with a keen eye. The poet is interested in both the detail and the scheme, in both the streak on the tulip and the nature of beauty which the flower represents. This is why the seasons have, down the centuries, had a special appeal for poets. (It’s interesting though obvious to note that modern poets from England and especially from New England, where weather patterns
are more extreme, are more likely to write about the seasons than poets from more steadily temperate parts.) This book is a virtual anthology of small details, because the seasons invite us to catalogue the terms of our love for the world. It takes hours of observation to get the tiniest half-line right that describes, say, the precise shade of a bird’s wing in flight. And such details are then the starting-point of metaphor. We can’t see anything exactly as it is unless we first see it as something else.
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This volume has some serious and regrettable flaws which can be found in Cumming's iconic "In Just-". Line six has been omitted as has "running", and "far" appears as "fat" in subsequent lines.
I contacted the editor of the volume and he was to write the publisher, but the books in this series are printed in Germany.
If one can ignore the errors in Cummings he will find a comprehensive and rewarding selection of poems.