I have long had Wilbur's poem, ``Man Running, '' on my home office bulletin board. When I first read it in the NewYorker Magazine, it gave me shivers. How did Wilbur know exactly how I felt when a man was on the run, a bad man, most certainly, pursued by hounds and the law and uniformed men with guns, and my hopes were all with the man running?
Because we have ``fidelity to childhood games/And outlaws of romance, We darkly cheer him, whether or not/ He robbed that store, or bank, or fired that shot/And wish him, guiltily, a sporting chance.''
When Richard Matt and David Sweat, convicted murderers, escaped from Dannemora, NY Penitentiary and were on the run for those three weeks in June, just ended, I was hoping dimly and remotely for their success. Perhaps, I dreamed, they would alight after their frenzied, tortuous run on a foreign, tropical beach and quietly live out their days in small victory against the man
But Matt was killed by searchers, and Sweat was shot and captured. They were dangerous, guilty cons, but I still learned the news of their failure with a sigh.
How did Wilbur know this side of us, we the civilized? Does he know how modern, how true his poem is?
And not just for me, but for others I have spoken with and feel the same. In my dreams I often was running, running, from something gaining on me, in terror, heart-racing, alive and primal. No doubt it's because I, like Wilbur's narrator, ``Remembered from the day/ When we descended from the trees/Into the shadow of our enemies/Not lords of nature yet, but naked prey.''
Still makes me shiver. Makes me think. What a poet. - Rick Telander
I wish you could include 'Digging for China' in your PH list. It's delightful for children, humorous for adults, and clever for poets themselves. It pairs well with Elizabeth Bishop's fish, as unlike as they are (as one of my students pointed out to me): if you read them both, you'll see why. Regrettably it makes reference to 'a coolie, ' which in the political correctness of our day would make it highly objectionable, but one should remember the era in which it was wirtten (1956) . Here are its lush climactic lines: '... the earth went round / And showed me silver barns, the fields dozing / In palls of brightness, patens growing and gone / In the tides of leaves, and the whole sky china blue.' But you have to read to the last line to get the surprise and the witty point of the poem.
The following is my favorite Richard Wilbur poem. It awakened my love of poetry, especially the first stanza.
Many of us would be grateful if you added it to your Wilbur collection.
Two Voices in a Meadow – Richard Wilbur
Anonymous as cherubs
Over the crib of God,
White seeds are floating
Out of my burst pod.
What power had I
Before I learned to yield?
Shatter me, great wind:
I shall possess the field
As casual as cow-dung
Under the rib of God,
I lie where chance would have me,
Up to the ears in sod.
Why should I move? To move
Befits a light desire.
The sill of heaven would founder,
Did such as I aspire.