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