A Draft of Light: Poems
A Draft of Light: Poems
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A glorious new collection from one of our most distinguished poets.
Here are poems that explore the ways in which ordinary objects open doors to the more hidden, subconscious truths of our inner selves: a bird of “countless colors” calls to mind “the echo . . . / of an inner event / From my forgotten past”; a subway bee sting conjures up quick unlikely visits by the muses—a momentary awareness that is “as much of a / Gift from those nine sisters as / Is ever given.”
Other poems lay bare the imperfect nature of our memories: reality altered by our inevitably less accurate but perhaps “truer” recall of past events (“memory— / As full of random holes as any / Uncleaned window is of spots / Of blur and dimming—begins at once / To interfere”). Still others examine the dramatic changes in perspective we undergo over the course of a lifetime as, in the poem “When We Went Up,” John Hollander describes the varied responses he has to climbing the same mountain at different points in his life.
In all of the poems Hollander illuminates the fluid nature of physical and emotional experience, the connections between the simple things we encounter every day and the ways in which the meaning we attribute to them shapes our lives. Like the harmonious coming together of bandstand instruments on a summer afternoon, he writes, most of what we come to know in the world is “A dying moment / Of lastingness thenceforth / Ever not to be.”
Throughout this thought-provoking collection, Hollander reveals the ways in which we are constantly creating unique worlds of our own, “a draft of light” of our own making, and how these worlds, in turn, continually shape our most basic identities and truest selves.
we know, but what’s from “Dee”? Le chat assis in an English tree? —Well, what’s the French for “fiddle-de-dench”? (That is to say, for “monkey wrench”) —Once in the works, it produced a stench. What’s the Greek for “fiddle-de-dex”? (That is to say, for “Brekekekex) —The frog-prince turned out to be great at sex. What’s the Erse for “fiddle-de-derse”? (That is to say, for “violent curse”?) —Bad cess to you for your English verse! What’s the Malay for “fiddle-de-day”? (That is to say,
for “That is to say …”) —… [There are no true synonyms, anyway …] What’s the Pali for “fiddle-de-dally”? (That is to say, for “Silicon Valley”) —Maya deceives you: the Nasdaq won’t rally. What’s the Norwegian for “fiddle-de-degian”? (That is to say, for “His name is Legion”) —This aquavit’s known in every region. What’s the Punjabi for “fiddle-de-dabi”? (That is to say, for “crucifer lobby”) —They asked for dal but were sent kohlrabi. What’s the Dutch for “fiddle-de-Dutch”? (That is
Restored A Draft of Light Setting Out for the Inner as the Outer Sets In Steep Declension Attic Nights Being Stung by a Bee on the Lexington Avenue Local Stationary Bicycle When We Went Up Dr. Johnson’s Fable Typing Lesson: A Little Fable Getting It Right From the Notes of a Traveler FIDDLING AROUND Emeritus Faculties Fiddle-Faddle For “Fiddle-De-Dee” No Fiddling Second Fiddle First Music Lesson Another Cause for Wonder Marine Tongue Twister Old Saws Newly
had been, Like leaves plucked down by winter; And to the left lay the gleaming field Which hides in its golden floor The memories of where one is, What one is headed for. And straight ahead where the path died out A steep hill slowly rose, And at its top a silent spot Where the air was in repose, Where no wind blew through his silent harp Nor thrummed its slackened strings, Though it plucked the branches of the trees With thousands of unseen wings. And when he gained that silent
some Days later that I Was as one who, once stung by A gold-banded Bee in a fable, Might have thereupon acquired As a gift—not from Apollo himself, But from one of his nine girls— A peculiar kind Of wisdom: but of Which sort, and from which of them— Which of the Muses— Let alone what tied That bunch to that misplaced bee (Poor lost bee! I had No anger for her As I might have had for the Knitting-needle nut) And what deep cosmic Questions had hung on this I Could not imagine.