Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"With aster-blur and ferns of toasted gold . . .."

"Aster Blur" by Mike McRoberts a photo by phoGARDEBtog on Flickr.

Late October Musing

In October of 2003, after I had returned to writing poetry after a hiatus of several decades, that is, when I decided to be faithful to my true vocation, I rather brazenly sent a letter to US Poet Laureate and my favorite poet, Richard Wilbur, along with twenty-one poems, asking if he wouldn't mind letting me know if my poetry "is any good".

Two weeks later, Mr. Wilbur wrote back to me: "Well, it seems to me that your poems are very good indeed; formally accomplished, well-paced, witty, and full of the right words."

He went on to mention three of my sonnets in particular, as poetry of "a transcendent realm which reaches out of the mere everyday."

I've been blessed since then to have met, heard, and spoken briefly with Mr. Wilbur, both in Newburyport, Massachusetts at their annual literary festival and at West Chester University's poetry conference in 2011. He has subsequently written that my translation of Verlaine's Ars poetica is "excellent", and wrote an endorsement of my first full-length collection, Lines of Flight, for the book's back cover, the manuscript having been sent to him by Alex Pepple of Able Muse Press.

Since October is quickly coming to a close, I wanted to include Mr. Wilbur's extraordinary and unforgettable poem, "Elsewhere", in my poetry blog.

My letter to Mr. Wilbur, written nine years ago, ends by stating "Mr. Wilbur, poetry is the underpinning of my life. It sustains me. And I dearly want to share mine with the world, but have no idea of how to go about it . . . What I am trying to ask is that you kindly read over some of the poems I've included in this package (whenever you have the time and/or inclination), and then please let me know your opinion of them. For this I would be eternally grateful."

And I am, Mr. Wilbur. I truly am.


The delectable names of harsh places:
Cilicia Aspera, Estremadura.
In that smooth wave of cello-sound, Mojave,
We hear no ill of brittle parch and glare.

So late October’s pasture-fringe,
With aster-blur and ferns of toasted gold,
Invites to barrens where the crop to come
Is stone prized upward by the deepening freeze.

Speechless and cold the stars arise
On the small garden where we have dominion.
Yet in three tongues we speak of Taurus’ name,
And of Aldebaran and the Hyades,

Recalling what at best we know,
That there is beauty bleak and far from ours,
Great reaches where the Lord’s delighting mind,
Though not inhuman, ponders other things.

 - Richard Wilbur (from his book Mayflies)

I meet Richard Wilbur for the first time - Fall 2007

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