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Saturday, December 30, 2017

A poetic foundation

“I began as a writer of light verse, and have tried to carry over into my serious or lyric verse something of the strictness and liveliness of the lesser form.” – John Updike

Born in 1932, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner John Updike was a novelist, short story writer, art critic, literary critic – and poet.  He authored 20 novels, a dozen short story collections, several children’s books and 8 books of poetry, the last in 2009, the year of his death.        Updike wrote poetry for most of his life. In his teens, he was already publishing poems in magazines, and his professional writing career began in 1954 when The New Yorker accepted one of his poems.  His first book, The Carpentered Hen and Other Tame Creatures (1958), was a poetry collection.   For Saturday’s Poem, here are Updike's In Extremis and November.

In Extremis
I saw my toes the other day.
I hadn't looked at them for months.
Indeed, they might have passed away.
And yet they were my best friends once.
When I was small, I knew them well.
I counted on them up to ten
And put them in my mouth to tell
The larger from the lesser. Then
I loved them better than my ears,
My elbows, adenoids, and heart.
But with the swelling of the years
We drifted, toes and I, apart.
Now, gnarled and pale, each said, j'accuse!
I hid them quickly in my shoes.
                    The stripped and shapely
                    Maple grieves
                    The ghosts of her
                    Departed leaves.

                   The ground is hard,
                   As hard as stone.
                   The year is old,
                   The birds are flown.

                   And yet the world,
                   In its distress,
                   Displays a certain

                          * From A Child’s Calendar

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