The Epigrammatic Power of Richar Wilbur
Another Touchstone: the utterly remarkable concision
Richard Wilbur could achieve in one brilliant metaphor.
Here is "Sleepless at Crown Point":
All night, this headland
Lunges into the rumpling
Capework of the wind.
Hard to know where to begin singing the praises of this amazing poem, a haiku
that like many others by Wilbur, near-rhymes (here, "land" with "wind"). Perhaps
start by pointing out that all three touchstones so far are very short poems, making
considerable demands on the poet without frightening off the reader? Wilbur's
conservative lineation (he never stopped capitalizing his lines' first words, and all
the more praise to him for doing so) seems to insist on the importance of what is
happening despite the brief five or seven syllables employed. I think we stop and
concentrate and pay respect because of this.
Marvels: no bull appears in this poem (so no animal was harmed in its filming),
yet the bullfighting metaphor is clear; the wind becomes a matador rumpling
his/its cape at the lunging beast that is the headland; the headland subtly
picks up on the bull's head; and the headland suggests a cliff or cape (of land).
And if this night of insomnia occurs at Crown Point, is it likely to be
the town on the western shore of Lake Champlain? Further researches
may be in order.
In short, compact haiku that does what so many fail to: make itself
truly memorable by virtue of its astounding ability to see metaphor
where I suspect most of us would come back from the experience
with little more than a complaint of sleeplessness.