Friday, 11 August 2017

"This is among the most valuable work produced in our time"

The above quote comes from James Merrill and it refers to Theodore Weiss's collected poems (1950 - 1986) titled 'From Princeton One Autumn Afternoon'.

Weiss (1916 - 2003) writes: An ideal I have held before me is a poetry, a language, absorbed in and exploiting its own immense resources yet, at the same time, transparent to the world at large.

Unfortunately for 'the world at large' or in this case the small portion of it that has nothing better to do than to read this humble blog of mine I have to disappoint Mr Weiss and his potential new reader.

My copy of the 436 page tome contains no less than three copyright notices - one inside and two on the back flap. Respecting these Canadian and American notices which contain words like 'no part of this book may be reproduced' and 'all rights reserved' and 'without permission in writing' I cannot help Mr Weiss reach 'the world at large' much as I would like to. And this is unfortunate.

We are living at a time in history when poems like 'Gunsight' (An interior monologue that records, through the voices in him, the sensations and memories of a wounded soldier undergoing surgery) might deserve a wider audience.

Mother, why do you, pale as hoarfrost glimmer-
ing on leaves, my blood upon your lips,

M. L. Rosenthal says : The book is like a living tree: a talking, thinking, witty, changing, affectionate, serious Weiss-tree, unique in our American poetical garden.

James Dickey calls the poet's work: visionary.

Richard Eberhart speaks of a: richly indexed mind.

Weiss's poetry 'explores the human and natural condition . . . cuts through our individual predicaments and probes such pervasive matters as our historical circumstances, the refugee state most of us are in, the relentless search for basic identity and, finally, the problems of aging and dying'.

The title poem 'From Princeton One Autumn Afternoon' opens and closes:

Dear Zbigniew Herbert,

Someone said all poems compose
one poem. Who's to judge him wrong?

. . .


                   But as the newest
critics tell us, it's a mistake,
if not a downright fake, to think
a work, whether it be painting,
poem, song, belongs to anyone.
By god

. . .

barefoot into glory,
immortal, in their name-free works.

                                   Theodore Weiss


  1. Very insightful post. I may just be on the lookout for the collected poems. Thanks for sharing and warm greetings.

    1. Thanks Mr B. And warm greetings to you too!