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This review is taken from PN Review 170, Volume 32 Number 6, July - August 2006.

A CONFLICT WITH DISORDER RICHARD WILBUR , Collected Poems 1943 - 2004 (The Waywiser Press) £ 14.99


There is nothing to do with a day except to live it.
Let us have music again when the light dies
(Sullenly, or in glory) and we can give it
    Something to organize.
                                                                       ( 'C Minor' )

In a career spanning more than sixty years, Richard Wilbur has devoted himself to organising the daylight and exploring the darkness. A musical, formal and cultured poet, his latest Collected is a continuing triumph. At 85 he has outlived most of his peers. Yet he is still producing those elegantly constructed, metrical investigations into our lives. Wilbur was brought up on the Metaphysical Poets and, through this long career, has deployed their love of conceits, verbal surprises and immediacy. For Wilbur, as for them, the object has been to express honestly a sense of the complexities of the world. His diction has been accessible, his imagery drawn from the commonplace and from a variety of other sources.

If ingenuity is a characteristic of Richard Wilbur's poetry, so too is form. As he himself expressed it, metre is liberating. 'The strength of the genie comes of his being confined in a bottle.' His is a world where magic and mythology are domestic, where tree and flower are named and numinous, where mortality presses and the dead leave their sign. It is a celebratory world, for all that, and one informed by feeling and humour. If there are no answers in Wilbur, ...


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