cover image Anterooms: New Poems and Translations

Anterooms: New Poems and Translations

Richard Wilbur, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $20 (80p) ISBN 978-0-547-35811-6

Wilbur, who turns 90 next year, has stood for decades in the front rank of American poets who know how to use traditional forms: his confident rhymes and stanzas are second to none, their poise perhaps unsurpassed since Frost, and like Frost he can combine smooth popular appeal with a startling dark side. One of the best of the new poems, "Terza Rima," remembers a "dead/ Enemy soldier" in WWII whose corpse Wilbur struck with his jeep. Other new poems strive equably to describe the mixed emotions of later life: "Psalm" lauds "the stops of the sweet flute/ Or capering fife," but concludes by asking its musician "in grave relief/ Praise too our sorrows on the/ Cello of shared grief." As in most of his volumes, Wilbur mixes original verse with new translations: "Thirty-Seven Riddles from Symphosius" turns into triple-rhymed pentameter such Latin kennings as "I once was water, and soon shall be again" (i.e., ice). Wilbur, a former poet laureate and Pulitzer winner, has written verse for children, too, and he rounds out the volume with the latest in that line: "If carp is in your carport go find out/ Whether the living room is full of trout." This volume's gems measure up to Wilbur's high standards. (Nov.)