Saturday, April 1, 2017

NPM: The new cathedral

Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ
(image: Newark Public Library)

I hadn't intended to post anything for National Poetry Month this year—I've got something else planned instead. But old habits die hard. It's April, it's spring, and my various tissues and glands can no more capably resist the vernal compulsion than the robins can stop singing, the peepers can cease peeping, or the forsythia can abstain from getting all up in everyone's face. NPM must be observed!

In the months since I finished reading Paterson I've been flipping through my beat-up copy of The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams: 1909–1939. Here's one that recently jumped out at me, one that I'm not sure I noticed/appreciated before now.

The New Cathedral Overlooking the Park
William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963)

The new cathedral overlooking the park
looked down from its tower
with great eyes today and saw
by the decorative lake a group of people
staring curiously at the corpse
of a suicide——Peaceful dead young man
the money they have put into the stones
has been spent to teach men of
life's austerity. You died
and teach us the same lesson.
You seem a cathedral, celebrant of
the naked spring that shivers for me
among the long black trees

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