Alice Oswald

Alice Oswald is my newest literary obsession. I stumbled upon this article a few months ago which intrigued me. So, I went out and bought her book Woods etc. and was not disappointed. Her verse skillfully drifts in and out of strict meter, but it is only in the echo of her words that you realize the movements’ absolute perfection. She is an extremely talented poet. She draws her inspiration from nature and antiquity the combination creates a unique and grounded style. She is a naturalist, a classicists, but not a romantic.


Alice Oswald

I particularly love this picture of Oswald at her home with the books cascading down the steps. (She is a mother of three children). 


Richard Wilbur Upon Sylvia Plath

I could never really get into Sylvia Plath’s poetry. I know some of her poems are quite good, but I can’t sink my teeth into it because her work just isn’t grounded- it’s mad. I Enjoy some of her  poems on a basic level but I do not want to think of any of Plath’s poetry for too long, I may also go mad.

Her literary genius  is not the same as Austen’s or Dickinson’s or   Keyon’s. Although they may have suffered from mental illness, I know Keyon suffered from depression, their works did not depend  on it. Their writings were a result of strenuous application of  their talent. They immersed themselves in their craft. Plath however was caught up in her mind- not her craft.

Richard Wilbur expressed this problem rather well in a interview I found recently:


In the context of this balance that you like to keep in your own work, in “Cottage Street, 1953,” you call Sylvia Plath’s poetry “unjust.” Are you referring to what you see as her poetry’s one-sidedness?


Its helpless one-sidedness. I tried to sprinkle a whole lot of words around there that would add up to a kind of just estimate of her. That, together with the picture I had given of her as a slumped, pale, drowning person. Let the record show that I said brilliant: “her brilliant negative. In poems free and helpless and unjust.” I suppose she was freed by the onset of her desperate condition of mind to be brilliant in the way the poems of Ariel are brilliant. At the same time, she was helpless because it required that condition of mind to bring on those poems. She was unjust because a sick and prejudiced perception of things is—well, that’s the limitation on the usefulness of her poetry to any reader, I think. It gives you some insights into a desperate condition of mind that is not absolutely foreign to the rest of us, but that goes farther towards morbidity than I’ve ever gone, thank God. At the same time there’s a lot she can’t tell you. She’s all wrapped up in herself and her feelings about her children, and herself as a writer, and her fantasies about her dead father, and her arbitrary connections between her dead father and her husband. I don’t suppose we need to know that her father was not a Nazi in order to read that poem [“Daddy”] rightly, or do we? In any case, she’s rather unjust to him. She’s certainly unjust to her mother.


Diane Wakoski has said she thinks confessional poetry is misnamed—that Plath and Lowell and Sexton are not confessing anything, but are writing out of feelings, like pain, that most of us don’t find acceptable as material.


Well, I really think Sylvia Plath’s later poems, when unfortunately she was at her best, were crazy, and that, whatever virtues they have, they have that limitation. I don’t think Lowell’s best work is to be described in that way. I think whenever he’s been emotionally ill it hasn’t enabled him to write. He hasn’t written out of illness, but in spite of it. The same story with Roethke, and I’m sure the same with Anne Sexton, whom I didn’t know as well. As for pain, it’s acceptable and necessary material. One of the jobs of poetry is to make the unbearable bearable, not by falsehood but by clear, precise confrontation. Even the most cheerful poet has to cope with pain as part of the human lot; what he shouldn’t do is to complain, and dwell on his personal mischance.


Richard Wilbur’s Wife


In search of Richard Wilbur’s wife, I found only a name, Mary Charlotte Hayes Ward and a few dates. No photo. Although from what I can gather, they were happily married for sixty-five years. She died in 2007.  They had four children together. Again no photos. They kept out of the spot light very well which seemed to work for them beautifully.

In 1987 Richard Wilbur was named the second Poet Laureate of the U.S., following Robert Penn Warren. He is considered a formalist poet and was good friends with RObert Frost. I have always loved his work. He is also well known for his translations and children books. Here’s one of my favorite poems by him:

The Beautiful Changes

One wading a Fall meadow finds on all sides
The Queen Anne’s Lace lying like lilies
On water; it glides
So from the walker, it turns
Dry grass to a lake, as the slightest shade of you
Valleys my mind in fabulous blue Lucernes.
The beautiful changes as a forest is changed
By a chameleon’s tuning his skin to it;
As a mantis, arranged
On a green leaf, grows
Into it, makes the leaf leafier, and proves
Any greenness is deeper than anyone knows.
Your hands hold roses always in a way that says
They are not only yours; the beautiful changes
In such kind ways,
Wishing ever to sunder
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.