Richard Wilbur: Great American Poet

Richard Wilbur
Richard Wilbur

We speak with former U.S. Poet Laureate Richard Wilbur about new poems and old, the art of translation, and his evolution as a poet.  Richard Wilbur is one of America’s greatest living poets. He earned the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry twice, once in 1957 and then again in 1989, and was named the U.S. Poet Laureate in 1987. Wilbur also reads from his work for us.

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Wilbur’s poetry is honed to a deceptive simplicity. As one reviewer wrote, “All of them are easy to read, while being suffused with an astonishing verbal music and a compacted thoughtfulness that invite sustained reflection.”

His work celebrates the world and the individuals within it. The poet Randall Jarrell said that he was ever reminded of  Petronius‘ phrase “studied felicity” whenever he read a book of Wilbur’s.

Host Francesca Rheannon and guest host Christian McEwen paid a visit to the poet at his Cummington, MA home to record this interview.

You can also listen to Wilbur read his poetry in the audio book collection Poetry on Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work, 1888-2006, Volume 2.

Read Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

Read Advice to a Prophet

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We also hear an excerpt from an interview Writers Voice did with Jeanne Braham, about her book [amazon-product text=”LIGHT WITHIN THE LIGHT: Portraits of Donald Hall, Richard Wilbur, Maxine Kumin, and Stanley Kunitz” type=”text”]156792316X[/amazon-product].

Christian McEwen asked Richard Wilbur what he thought about the removal of the following words about nature from Oxford Junior Dictionary and their replacement by words about technology. In order to make room for modern words like MP3 player, chatroom, and database, the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary removed many nature-related words as a result of the changing landscape. So BlackBerry takes the place of blackberry, and so on.

Nature Words Removed From Oxford Junior Dictionary

In order to make room for modern words like MP3 player, chatroom, and database, the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary removed many nature-related words as a result of the changing landscape. So BlackBerry takes the place of blackberry, and so on.

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Words taken out: Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade, carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe, dwarf, elf, goblin, abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar. Adder, ass, beaver, boar, budgerigar, bullock, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, doe, drake, ferret, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, hamster, heron, herring, kingfisher, lark, leopard, lobster, magpie, minnow, mussel, newt, otter, ox, oyster, panther, pelican, piglet, plaice, poodle, porcupine, porpoise, raven, spaniel, starling, stoat, stork, terrapin, thrush, weasel, wren. Acorn, allotment, almond, apricot, ash, bacon, beech, beetroot, blackberry, blacksmith, bloom, bluebell, bramble, bran, bray, bridle, brook, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, conker, county, cowslip, crocus, dandelion, diesel, fern, fungus, gooseberry, gorse, hazel, hazelnut, heather, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, lavender, leek, liquorice, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, nectar, nectarine, oats, pansy, parsnip, pasture, poppy, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, rhubarb, sheaf, spinach, sycamore, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, willow

Words put in: Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom, bullet point, cut and paste, analogue. Celebrity, tolerant, vandalism, negotiate, interdependent, creep, citizenship, childhood, conflict, common sense, debate, EU, drought, brainy, boisterous, cautionary tale, bilingual, bungee jumping, committee, compulsory, cope, democratic, allergic, biodegradable, emotion, dyslexic, donate, endangered, Euro. Apparatus, food chain, incisor, square number, trapezium, alliteration, colloquial, idiom, curriculum, classify, chronological, block graph.

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About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca Rheannon is an award-winning independent radio producer. In addition to hosting Writer's Voice, she's a freelance reporter for National Public Radio and its affiliates. Recipient of the prestigious Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for reporting on substance abuse issues for her news series, VOICES OF HIV, produced for 88.5 WFCR public radio in western Massachusetts. She is also finishing a book on Provence (PROVINCE OF THE HEART) and working on a memoir of her father, THE ARGONAUTS.

4 thoughts on “Richard Wilbur: Great American Poet

  1. Thanks for the interview. I particularly liked his circumspect expression of discouragement in response to the invitation to share in the Oxford Junior Dictionary tempest.

    Wilbur needs to do a reading on the west coast, preferably in support of a new book.

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