Collected Poems of John Holmes
Holmes, John A., Jr.
The visiting poets
The visiting poets
Tom Boggs with the unlyrical name saved the brief lyric
By the bookful, and wrote some of his own, about love.
He had married a model fifteen years younger. He died.
She was that unrepeatable phrase of music, brief
And of love, that proved him an anthologist.
We listened to an actor's recording of Hopkins' poems.
Tom said the best of it all was the voice announcing,
The Windhover. To Christ Our Lord." It was enough,
He said, we know it all from that. Poetry is too long.
For John Ransom's party we had bourbon and fish chowder,
And warm with this treaty between north and south,
He told us he told his Oxford tutor his first studies
In Tennessee were philosophy. "And the other years?"
He laughed - he could hardly tell it, laughing -
The same, I said, the same professor and his books."
And having had no philosophy instead of no literature,
You now wish to study modern English literature?" "Yes."
Then we saw the wise innocent of thirty he laughed at,
Reading like the first man who ever read Shakespeare.
We saw him through all his poems shine: Marlowe,
Spenser, Sidney; that radiance; that refraction.
Hours after his poetry reading, Peter Viereck still talked,
The audience in my few chairs Wilbur, Eberhart, Ciardi.
On through, over and beyond any handing around of books,
Or drinks, or the half-sentences of the rest of us, he talked.
Peter, Shut up!" said John Ciardi, and Viereck shut up.
Whatever John went on to say, whatever the others answered,
None of it was as eloquent as that, nothing as memorable.
It seems to me now one of the great moments of modern poetry.
No presence in my house is as unbelievable as Tietjens'.
Huge in a black suit, and breathing hard, Cuban cigarette
Sagging in the old jowled face, Ford Madox Ford filled
The window he sat in, and walls of books came closer.
The presence was inscribing his novels, "No More Parades,"
"A Man Could Stand Up," "The Last Post," more real to me
Than he was. The bedevilled man with the marvelous mind,
Whose name I expected written in my books, Christopher Tietjens,
Tested himself in battle by improvising a strict sonnet.
Ford Madox Ford was another man, who'd known Conrad.
Where am I?" he wheezed - he'd been gassed in the war -
What is the name of this place?" "You're in books,"
I thought I said, "there's a poem, 'Ford Madox Ford in Heaven'-"
But he was the good British author, autographing his own,
So I spelled it, "S-o-m-e-r-v-i-l-l-e, Somerville,"
And still it seemed as unlikely to me as it did to him.