Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"A Barred Owl"

by Richard Wilbur

The warping night-air having brought the boom
Of an owl's voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
"Who cooks for you?" and then "Who cooks for you?"

Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.

From Mayflies: New Poems and Translations. (c) 2000 by Richard Wilbur. Reprinted by permission of Harcourt, Inc.

***

Poet and translator Richard Wilbur has won the 2006 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Established in 1986, the prize is one of the most prestigious given to American poets, and at $100,000 it is one of the nation's largest literary honors. Christian Wiman, editor of Poetry magazine and chair of the selection committee, made the announcement today. The prize will be presented at an evening ceremony at the Arts Club in Chicago on May 25th.

In announcing the award, Wiman said: "If you had to put all your money on one living poet whose work will be read in a hundred years, Richard Wilbur would be a good bet. He has written some of the most memorable poems of our time, and his achievement rivals that of great American poets like Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bishop."

Richard Wilbur has published over two-dozen poems in Poetry since his first appearance in the magazine in February 1948. Wilbur has served as Poet Laureate of the United States and his many other honors include two Pulitzer Prizes, the National Book Award, and the Bollingen Translation Prize. He lives with his wife, Charlotte, in Cummington, Massachusetts.

Born in New York City on March 1, 1921, Wilbur grew up on a New Jersey farm, was educated at Amherst and Harvard, and served with the 36th Infantry Division. He was a member of the prestigious Harvard Fellows and taught there until 1954, when he moved to Wellesley and then to Wesleyan University. From Wesleyan he went to Smith as writer-in-residence. In 1987 he was named the second Poet Laureate of the U.S., following Robert Penn Warren.

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