Friday, April 13, 2007

"The Writer," by Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.


  1. I'm posting this in honor of the conference this weekend. (My talk is done, my PowerPoint burnt to CD, I left work at 9:30 tonight, I am not going to worry about it anymore.) And then on Sunday or Monday I will post its counterpart, which is one of my very favorite poems ever . . . a poem I feel a rush of joy and rightness just thinking about. Truth and beauty, all right here.

  2. Cheryl, all these poems have been just beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing them -- I never would have read any of them if you hadn't, because I always put poetry in the too-hard basket, to my shame. But none of these is too hard -- just hard enough.

  3. kate c, you said it perfectly.

    Thanks, Cheryl. Each of these is a daily jewel.

  4. Thanks for reminding me about this poem.

  5. Egad -- that was beautiful.

    I saw your comments about Austenland over at Austenblog. I tipped them on the novel being out, and I'm quite looking forward to it -- who knew it would provoke so much derision?

  6. Ah, I love the power of this. Yes, truth and beauty.

  7. Beautiful poem! Thanks for posting this. Great poets (and artists) always seems to shape the most mundane things into something beautiful.

  8. Having been the girl writing in her room and also the adult watching a girl write, I really liked this one. Thanks for sharing! (And enjoy the conference!)

  9. My daughter is writing her own YA book. .. and this poem struck me like a piece of indigo glass,
    suddenly finding myself looking through blue shadows of words from one hand, to another

    Thank you for this poem :)


  10. Hey it mentions iridescent, starling are iridescent as well and it reminded me of "iridescent" by linkin park. And "the writer" is also a song by ellie goulding. In dantes inferno, at the very beginning he refers to virgil as"THE writer" not a writer. So whats going on here?!!!