Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Elias Baez : part two

When you require renewal, is there a particular poem or book that you return to? A particular author?

Part II of the poem “Altitudes” by Richard Wilbur has Emily Dickinson resolve the tensions laid in Part I. I usually only read Part I, cause I think it’s truer. It goes:

Look up into the dome:
It is a great salon, a brilliant place,
Yet not too splendid for the race
Whom we imagine there, wholly at home

With the gold-rosetted white
Wainscot, the oval windows, and the fault-
Less figures of the painted vault.
Strolling, conversing in that precious light,

They chat no doubt of love,
The pleasant burden of their courtesy
Borne down at times to you and me
Where, in this dark, we stand and gaze above.

For all they cannot share,
All that the world cannot in fact afford,
Their lofty premises are floored
With the massed voices of continual prayer.

He went to Amherst College, like I did, and I think he was as alienated by its extravagant sacralized wealth as I was. The same is true of Johns Hopkins, where I earned my MFA last year. I hear a lot of scathing sarcasm in these peaceful sounding lines, and that brings me actual peace.


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