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Saturday, October 12, 2019

That 'Tough Skin Of Words'

“Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.” – Paul Engle

Born on this date in 1908, Engle was a poet, editor, teacher, literary critic, novelist and playwright. He served as the long-time director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and co-founded the University of Iowa’s  International Writing Program.    By the time of his death in 1991, he had authored a dozen collections of poetry, a novel, a memoir, an opera libretto, a children's book and dozens of articles and reviews for magazines and journals around the globe.    

 For Saturday’s Poem, here is Engle’s,

                                                         Twenty Below
Twenty below, I said, and closed the door,
A drop of five degrees and going down.
It makes a tautened drum-hide of the floor,
Brittle as leaves each building in the town.
I wonder what would happen to us here
If that hard wind of winter never stopped,
No man again could watch the night grow clear,
The blue thermometer forever dropped.

I hope, you answered, for so cruel a storm
To freeze remoteness from our lives too cold.
Then we could learn, huddled all close, how warm
The hearts of men who live alone too much,
And once, before our death, admit the old
Need of a human nearness, need of touch.

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