Wednesday, August 12, 2009

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry


I was having trouble choosing a poem to post today, so I asked my extremely well-read friend (and fellow writer) Benjy Caplan to pick one for me. His choice is a good one -- "Security Lights, Key West" by
Richard Wilbur, who published his first book of poetry in 1947 and has won basically every major poetry award/grant/prestigious fellowship out there. He's still alive and still writing; his New and Collected Poems came out in 2004 and today's selection is one of the new poems included in that volume. Pretty amazing that he's been writing poetry for over 60 years and is still this good at it.

Security Lights, Key West

Mere minutes from Duval Street’s goings-on,
The midnight houses of this quiet block,
With their long-lidded shutters, are withdrawn
In sleep past bush and picket, bolt and lock,

Yet each fa├žade is raked by the strange glare
Of halogen, in which fantastic day
Veranda, turret, balustraded stair
Glow like the settings of some noble play.

As if the isle were Prospero’s, you seem
To glimpse great summoned spirits as you pass.
Cordelia tells her truth, and Joan her dream,
Becket prepares the sacrifice of Mass,

A dog-tired watchman in that mirador
Waits for the flare that tells of Troy’s defeat,
And other lofty ghosts are heard, before
You turn into a narrow, darker street.

There, where no glow or glare outshines the sky,
The pitch-black houses loom on either hand
Like hulks adrift in fog, as you go by.
It comes to mind that they are built on sand,

And that there may be drama here as well,
Where so much murk looks up at star on star:
Though, to be sure, you cannot always tell
Whether those lights are high or merely far.

(to hear an audio recording of the poem, click
here.)

Thanks to Benjy for his help and good taste in poetry!

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