Friday, February 19, 2010

30 Days of Recommendations: Collected Poems of Donald Justice

Collected Poems

by Donald Justice

What’s it about: the collected poetical works from the 60 year career of the award winning poet Donald Justice.

Why you should read it: again I will let another writer speak for me - "Donald Justice is likely to be remembered as a poet who gave his age a quiet but compelling insight into loss and distance, and who set a standard for craftsmanship, attention to detail, and subtleties of rhythm.” -Marvin Bell.

I discovered Donald Justice’s work reading John Irving’s The Hotel New Hampshire, where his work is liberally quoted by one of the characters. "Who is this Donald Justice and how come everything he says applies to us?” another asks. Indeed. There are times I feel he talks directly to me, as his work is concerned with the quotidian, the quiet poetry of the mundane. I've even committed a few to memory.

Justice, who died in 2004, in his career won the Lamont Poetry Prize, the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the Bollingen Prize in Poetry, and the Lannan Literary Award. Collected Poems was nominated for the National Book Award.


A Map Of Love

Your face more than others' faces
Maps the half-remembered places
I have come to I while I slept—
Continents a dream had kept
Secret from all waking folk
Till to your face I awoke,
And remembered then the shore,
And the dark interior.

To A Ten-Months' Child

Late arrival, no
One would think of blaming you
For hesitating so.

Who, setting his hand to knock
At a door so strange as this one,
Might not draw back?

Men at Thirty

Thirty today, I saw
The trees flare briefly like
The candles upon a cake
As the sun went down the sky,
A momentary flash
Yet there was time to wish

Before the break light could die
If I had known what to wish
As once I must have known
Bending above the clean candlelit tablecloth
To blow them out with a breath

Men at Forty

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it moving
Beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father's tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

The Thin Man

I indulge myself
In rich refusals.
Nothing suffices.
I hone myself to
this edge. Asleep, I
Am a horizon.