Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Memory" by R.H.W. Dillard


Now, Julie, at last, you know “what kingdoms
Come,” farewells past, wary to the end, but took
Too long, who, like Adam, knew the names
Of things so well, “lilac, forsythia, orange,
Sharon rose,” whom T.R. taught bone’s dance,
In turn so many taught to sing that tune,
Argued with Wordsworth, also everyone else,
Old crank, plagued by demon alcohol, older,
More dangerous demons, too, led hurt, wounded
Young into that dark, “You are a poet,” once
To bright student, “God help you,” but did not,
Injured yourself, know how deep the shadow
Cast, so smart, unaware, tough, ambitious, then
Told by editor, too old, poetry is for the young,
Yet hard lines, bare words, incantatory, strong,
Those poems remain, alone, God help you, yes.

JULIA RANDALL: “To William Wordsworth from Virginia,” “For T.R., 1908-1963,” A Winter Gallery”
THEODORE ROETHKE: “The Waking,” “I Knew a Woman”

R.H.W. Dillard's long-awaited seventh collection consists of a sequence of fifty-two poems, each sixteen lines long, each addressed to a dead poet or several times to more than one dead poet. Each is a meditation of sorts upon that poet's work, secondarily that poet's life, and ultimately, all together, upon the life of poems themselves in a continually violent and inherently unjust world. The syntax of these poems is shattered, interrupted by bits and pieces of other poems, memories, reflections, echoes, dates, journal entries, explosions, &c., &c., constituting in part a "demonstration" of how the mind actually deals with poems (and, for that matter, with the business of living).

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