Day 17 – 30 Days, 30 Readings: “Mind” by Richard Wilbur

Lesser (Southern) Long-nosed Bat (Leptonycteri...
Lesser (Southern) Long-nosed Bat (Leptonycteris curasoae) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, unfortunately Mr. FedEX man has not arrived with my oldest son’s replacement phone. So armed with a proper tracking number, I will stand vigil again tomorrow afternoon. Now I am halfway out the door to go have dinner with my boys. I apologize that this photo on the left is the best picture I could find of today’s poet, Richard Wilbur (all in jest sir, all in jest).

Unlike May Swenson, our poet from Day 16, Wilbur was a formalist who adhered rather strictly to rhyme and meter. Other than one poem which had only a colon for the first line, I don’t recall his being much for visuals in his poetry. You can find a great write-up of the man on the Poetry Foundation website if you’d like to read more. I must say I admire him for sticking to his own style and subject matter when it just wasn’t cool with the other poet kids on the block, who were being all confessional and experimental.

Despite the vast difference in styles, today’s poem has a lot in common with Swenson’s poem “Universe,” at least it does  to me. Perhaps they are two different angles on the same questions, one looking outward, one looking inward. To me this one seems more hopeful. What do you think? Am I full of bunk, or what? I’d be interested in your take.

I haven’t consulted the “experts” over this, but in my Mind (pun intended), this poem by Wilbur is among the greatest of these modern times. It reflects a philosophy of empowerment within the mind of man, rather than a dependence on a benevolent intercession from beyond. Mostly, I just really love the metaphor. You can read an interesting critique and explication of the poem, if you go in for that sort of thing, by clicking here. I usually don’t get into explication, unless I am doing it myself, but after today’s reading, I found it quite interesting.


Mind in its purest play is like some bat
That beats about in caverns all alone,
Contriving by a kind of senseless wit
Not to conclude against a wall of stone.

It has no need to falter or explore;
Darkly it knows what obstacles are there,
And so may weave and flitter, dip and soar
In perfect courses through the blackest air.

And has this simile a like perfection?
The mind is like a bat. Precisely. Save
That in the very happiest of intellection
A graceful error may correct the cave.

– Richard Wilbur

8 Comments Add yours

  1. solingenpoet says:

    It’s not a poem i have heard before but i enjoyed the reading. After all i’m a silly old bat!!!! My mind really does resemble a fluttering bird. Thanks again,


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Haha, I can relate. Thank you.


    2. sonofwalt says:

      haha, you are not silly, and I love this poem too. It’s one of my all time favorites.


  2. I’m always fascinated by poems that explore the workings of the mind. (This is about the only way I can make sense of Wallace Stevens’ poems, in fact.) This Wilbur poem is new to me, and I’m so glad to be introduced to it. I appreciate your link to UpInVermont’s explication, too–I’d suspected Wilbur’s reference to Plato, but not to Milton. So many delicious layers of discovery!


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Also, I should say that I am getting into this so much, that it’s hard not to get all passionate about commentary. Right now, it takes enough time just to record and produce the poem itself, without the added time it would take to say all I want to say about the poem.

      In the future I may do videos that are linked from the readings which include commentary on them. I’ve already had that in mind for some time about a Robert Frost poem, but I’m not sure if that particular poem will be part of the the 30 day project or not. It depends on how much time I have to work with I suppose.

      In any case, I really appreciate your interaction with what I am doing here. Thank you so much!


  3. sonofwalt says:

    Then hopefully you will enjoy the little eight line poem coming up for tonight. 🙂 And Wallace Stevens will be hopefully making an appearance before the 30th. As for the explication, I am really glad you liked it. I thought Mr. Vermont did a fine job. The explication was deftly and respectfully written, and at least in my mind far less snotty than such things can sometimes be. 🙂 I didn’t even think about Paradise Lost either. 🙂


  4. Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog, I got to discover yours as well. This is a lively blog you got, i intend to discover more the great poets’ states of mind from your interesting commentaries about them. But first I need to follow, so that’s what i’m doing now! Have a great blogging day ahead!
    Cynthia Ann


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Thank you! First off to work. Then a nap before any more WordPressing today. 🙂


Talk to me:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.