Would You Be So Kind

William DeWitt Snodgrass (1926 – 2009)

in darkness and in hedges
I sang my sour tone
and all my love was howling
conspicuously alone

W. D. Snodgrass

Mementos, 1

By W. D. Snodgrass

Sorting out letters and piles of my old
    Canceled checks, old clippings, and yellow note cards   
That meant something once, I happened to find
    Your picture. That picture. I stopped there cold,   
Like a man raking piles of dead leaves in his yard
             Who has turned up a severed hand.

Still, that first second, I was glad: you stand
    Just as you stood—shy, delicate, slender,
In that long gown of green lace netting and daisies
    That you wore to our first dance. The sight of you stunned   
Us all. Well, our needs were different, then,
             And our ideals came easy.

Then through the war and those two long years
    Overseas, the Japanese dead in their shacks   
Among dishes, dolls, and lost shoes; I carried
    This glimpse of you, there, to choke down my fear,   
Prove it had been, that it might come back.
             That was before we got married.

—Before we drained out one another’s force   
    With lies, self-denial, unspoken regret
And the sick eyes that blame; before the divorce
    And the treachery. Say it: before we met. Still,   
I put back your picture. Someday, in due course,
             I will find that it’s still there.


I am afraid W. D. Snodgrass falls into one of voids of 20th Century poets who when I read their name for the first time, I go ….”who?”.   After reading some of his poems,  I can say he would not rank even in my top 200 favorite poets,  but I do admire his sense of humor.   Snodgrass did what average white male poets could do back then, have a long, mediocre successful career and then fade away into obscurity.   In reality he achieved a far bit, or it says so on the internet.  I enjoyed him poking fun at himself and his colleagues in the poem below, while maintaining the style for which he was being ridiculed. I am willing to wager part of the joke is the way he placed the words upon the page.   My assessment in my brief tour of Snodgrass land is that he lived the American dream, what most of us aspire;  Do something we enjoy, get paid enough to live a good life from it and then get out of the way for the next generation and fade into the very obscurity from which we emerged.   


The Poet Ridiculed by Hysterical Academics

by W. D. Snodgrass

…….. ,,,,, . Is it, then, your opinion
                      Women are putty in your hands?
                  Is this the face to launch upon
                      A thousand one night stands?

First, please, would you be so kind
    As to define your contribution
To modern verse, the Western mind
    And human institutions?

                                    Where, where is the long, flowing hair,
                                        The velvet suit, the broad bow tie;
                                    Where is the other-worldly air,
                                        Where the abstracted eye?

Describe the influence on your verse
    Of Oscar Mudwarp’s mighty line,
The theories of Susan Schmersch
    Or the spondee’s decline.

         You’ve labored to present us with
             This mouse-sized volume; shall this equal
         The epic glories of Joe Smith?
             He’s just brought out a sequel.

                  Where are the beard, the bongo drums,
                      Tattered T-shirt and grubby sandals,
                  As who, released from Iowa, comes
                      To tell of wondrous scandals?

Have you subversive, out of date,
    Or controversial ideas?
And can you really pull your weight
    Among such minds as these?

                                    Ah, what avails the tenure race,
                                        Ah, what the Ph.D.,
                                    When all departments have a place
                                        For nincompoops like thee?


Published by

A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.

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