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.

January 13, 2011

Under the cliff walls of apartment blocks, on a narrow patch of grass as tough and discolored as old carpet, they have parked their motorbikes and distributed themselves, a tribe, a colony, girls and boys, some lounged on the sward, some on cement paving in a strip of shade, some on two facing wrought-iron benches planted in concrete. Out of range of grownups, they play cards, they scuffle, a girl places her head on a boy’s lap to practice kissing, they smoke, they pass lit cigarettes back and forth, a smaller boy pops a soccer ball against the wall with slow, heat-drugged, sidewise kicks. Hou

Editors' Picks: Best Books of 2010
December 22, 2010

The Bars of Atlantis: Selected Essays by Durs Grünbein Reviewing this collection of essays by Germany's pre-eminent contemporary poet, Helen Vendler wrote that "If Yeats’s aim was to hold in a single thought reality and justice, then Grünbein’s is to hold in a single thought poetry and philosophy." This book contains my favorite quote of the year.

Against Rage
December 08, 2010

He had not been denied the world. Terrible scenes that he clung to because they taught him the world will at last be buried with him. As well as the exhilarations. Now, he thinks each new one will be the last one. The last new page. The last sex. Each human being’s story, he tells nobody, is a boat cutting through the night. As starless blackness approaches, the soul reverses itself, in the eerie acceptance of finitude. Frank Bidart is an American poet.

Robert, Cat
December 08, 2010

He has been my sole companion, sometimes, for days and weeks on end. Prisoner No. 1 and Prisoner No. 2, making do. Yet this solitude cannot compare with his. At any time I can walk out the door—I am not about to do any such thing; theoretically, however, it is within my power. All at once I am ashamed to think that if anyone is anybody’s sole companion, I am his.