Monday, October 16, 2017

Richard Wilbur ... by gimleteye

Richard Wilbur was a towering, extraordinarily quiet and humble giant of 20th century poetry and literature. We met Dick during our Key West years in the late 1980s. He and Charlotte lived in a walled compound off Solares Hill they shared with life-long friends, Barbara and John Hersey. My introduction was through John and the late Frank Taylor, a wonderful friend, writer and publisher who met John on assignment in the hills of Yunan in the late 1930's, tracking Mao Tse Tung for their respective newspapers. I was recruited, a “B” team player, in the famed, weekly Key West anagram game. As I recall, the golden age included the poet James Merrill, John Hersey (Trump would do well to read Hersey's "Hiroshima"), John Malcolm Brinnin — the poet, literary critic and scholar who discovered Dylan Thomas —, and Rust Hills, the long-time fiction editor of Esquire. Dick Wilbur was formal and quiet to outside appearances, but when the “A” team played — a player advances by stealing the word of another, through re-arranging and changing the root through the addition of one new letter (played without a board with tiles from a modified Scrabble set), Dick was fierce. The "A" team played words from the Oxford English Dictionary. The discussion around "challenges" was like watching sublime disagreements between knights of the Round Table. Those afternoons, time seemed to stop as collective imaginations burned like phosphorous around the wooden tiles. Key West friendships were durable and Dick Wilbur outlasted them all, but he too is gone now at age 96.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Friendships and the memory of their kindness and hospitality are tangible and enlighten the thought throughout all time.