Vesper Sparrow
April 07, 2011

for Deborah Digges Said and done I’m choosing the redwing. The unwritten rule is the rule of familiars (familiar having a homely quality), those birds close by, the ones you take for granted, though seasonal: the mocker in the arbor picking at the grapes, the house wren flowering in the dogwood, the catbird mewling in and out of the hedge, the infinite warbler warbling all summer... But not the bird you feed all winter, the one who stays, like the sometime cardinal (too present, too colorful), who warms the snow at the window, who on the coldest day will sing, since singing, by itself, like be

Swiche Glaringe Eyen
April 07, 2011

Sheila Fisher is an academic, a professor of English literature, and her sparkling introduction to the Canterbury Tales and Chaucer is by far the best

Pieces Falling into Place
March 07, 2011

Robert Lowell once surmised that the publication of his friend Elizabeth Bishop’s letters would lead to her being recognized “as not only one of the b

For Clare
March 03, 2011

I saw a brown shape in the unmown grass, half-hidden in a tuft, and crouching down to get a closer look, I found a young rabbit, no bigger than my hand, trembling there in its makeshift nest.

In an Ambulance
March 03, 2011

When I want to think “Life can get no worse than this,” It is a lie. While I can’t begin to imagine a You Who Created This morning, through my small window I see each tree is filled with so much sun It becomes a sun itself. Leaf-light winces off the current of cars. I see my mother following behind Because she will not lose me in this traffic. Because she will not lose me. Though I let myself run lost. This poem originally ran in the March 24, 2011, issue of the magazine. For more TNR, become a fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.    

A Birthday Card for Richard Wilbur
March 01, 2011

Richard Wilbur, among our most distinguished living poets and a longtime contributor to this magazine, celebrates his ninetieth birthday on March 1 of this year.  As the snows of Wilbur’s western New England were slowly yielding to auguries of spring, I found myself thinking, on this portentous event, of a passage from his poem “The Event,” in which he tries to fix in words the elusive significance of a swirling flight of birds.  Let that be the image on this birthday card for Wilbur, with the first eight lines of the poem for inscribed text, culminating in a wondrous and multifaceted simile

Table Setting
February 10, 2011

I am always falling in love when I have work to do. But there are other distractions, if you don’t pull through: roll of red ribbon, green candle on a crystal stand, orange cup of unground salt, violets with furry leaves. Map of the north cape with tunnel directions. And there are finer pairs than you and I would make: pale tablecloth with pink flowers, pale sky with pink sky at mountain height, brown teacup and saucer, golden honey jar and golden space between one mountain and another. A golden green night field.

The Call of the Mild
January 25, 2011

Nobody, so far as I know, calls Carl Dennis a great innovator, and I would not trust anybody who did. Insofar as he has distinctive gifts—and he certa

Viral Avant la Lettre
January 19, 2011

This book can be read in two ways. Historians will likely delight in the details and the diagrams provided by Robert Darnton, who tips his hat to the

January 13, 2011

I love the past tense, but you can’t live there. I love the stories you believe add up to you, Though they never do. I love the way The rhythms and the tenses and the words Add up to nothing, or to a diversion, or to this: I know this place, and even think it’s true If places can be true), but what does it say? That if I wake I’ll wake up into it, and then go on? Or is it just a state of mind, a place to linger in Or stay, whose seeming is the whole of its reality? I was born to indecision: I follow thoughts Wherever they lead, and dreams until it’s clear They won’t come true.