A Poem For Saturday

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 25 2014 @ 11:12am

Dish poetry editor Alice Quinn writes:

This coming Monday, January 27th, will mark the fifth anniversary of the death, at age 76, of John Updike. Poetry had a special place in his life. He wrote a poem every time he took a trip, and by the time he published Collected Poems, 1953-1993, by his calculation, The New Yorker had “said yes” to his poems one hundred and thirty five times. After his death, in the March 16th issue, the magazine ran ten poems from his last, dazzling, and tremendously moving collection, Endpoint, with a sequence of poems about his diagnosis, hospitalizations, and approaching lift-off from the world he celebrated so abundantly in his more than sixty books. In the opening poem of the sequence, “Spirit of ’76,” he wrote,

Be with me, words, a little longer; you
have given me my quitclaim in the sun,
sealed shut my adolescent wounds, made light
of grownup troubles, turned to my advantage
what in most lives would be pure deficit,
and formed, of those I loved, more solid ghosts.

In Updike’s honor, we’ll post three of his poems in the coming days.

“Upon Shaving Off One’s Beard” by John Updike:

The scissors cut the long-grown hair;
The razor scrapes the remnant fuzz.
Small-jawed, weak-chinned, big-eyed, I stare
At the forgotten boy I was.

(From Collected Poems, 1953-1993 by John Updike © 1993 by John Updike. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC.  All rights reserved.)