A Draft of Light: Poems
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A glorious new collection from one of our most distinguished poets.
Here are poems that explore the ways in which ordinary objects open doors to the more hidden, subconscious truths of our inner selves: a bird of “countless colors” calls to mind “the echo . . . / of an inner event / From my forgotten past”; a subway bee sting conjures up quick unlikely visits by the muses—a momentary awareness that is “as much of a / Gift from those nine sisters as / Is ever given.”
Other poems lay bare the imperfect nature of our memories: reality altered by our inevitably less accurate but perhaps “truer” recall of past events (“memory— / As full of random holes as any / Uncleaned window is of spots / Of blur and dimming—begins at once / To interfere”). Still others examine the dramatic changes in perspective we undergo over the course of a lifetime as, in the poem “When We Went Up,” John Hollander describes the varied responses he has to climbing the same mountain at different points in his life.
In all of the poems Hollander illuminates the fluid nature of physical and emotional experience, the connections between the simple things we encounter every day and the ways in which the meaning we attribute to them shapes our lives. Like the harmonious coming together of bandstand instruments on a summer afternoon, he writes, most of what we come to know in the world is “A dying moment / Of lastingness thenceforth / Ever not to be.”
Throughout this thought-provoking collection, Hollander reveals the ways in which we are constantly creating unique worlds of our own, “a draft of light” of our own making, and how these worlds, in turn, continually shape our most basic identities and truest selves.
scrapingly returned, alas So scrapingly; and never having reached That aria, arranged for fiddle in The first position and piano from The Pearl Fishers (and who were they?) That should have come along later that year. And there we were, abandoned and abandoning The task, so scraping and so hot and bothered, Alone at last now (Oh, those poor, poor teachers!) Beside the pool. How really still and cool Shadows of leaves along its edge were, darkly Reflected foliage that had its own Kind
in their sere Unflowered, fruitless theory Are gowned as in the uniform Of General June’s green Everywhere. WEATHER REPORT All that cold, rainy Spring the green deepened as it Became absorbed in Itself, quite inattentive To the busy details and Relations among Them that we have come to call “What was going on.” Outside there, under all the Wide, pervasive gray of sky (Which itself did not Interfere with very much), The garden had so Intensified beyond mere Coloration that it
Thorns 1958 Criticism The Poetry of Everyday Life 1998 The Work of Poetry 1997 The Gazer’s Spirit 1995 Melodious Guile: Fictive Pattern in Poetic Language 1988 Rhyme’s Reason: A Guide to English Verse 1981 The Figure of Echo: A Mode of Allusion in Milton and After 1981 Vision and Resonance: Two Senses of Poetic Form 1975 The Untuning of the Sky: Ideas of Music in English Poetry 1500–1700 1961 For Children The Immense Parade on Supererogation Day and What Happened to It 1972 The Quest
real fork in the path where, shuddering With power, responsibility and naked Vulnerability commingled, he Could really “choose” to head on one new course Or another—to blow the Horn, or don The Cape of Good Hope, say. Now, past the point Midway between the from and the far to, The place from which the path can seem to bend Through some dimension for which there’s no new Coordinate, he can see from and to As one, without yet seeing any real Resemblance at all … That way and this, High
alphabet, OK, too, yet Represented no less Well than it was before, in a remix Of the old twenty-six. (With some repeated—paddingly, I must confess.) “Were there an umpire whose decision Could not be challenged—” fox maintains (Still up to his old tricks) I’d win the point of the entire revision” But “Point not taken,” dog explains Refusing to defer To foxy casuistry (and you and I Would probably concur) “There is no winner here, for whether foxes fly Over recumbent dogs, or quite