The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival celebrated its 20th Anniversary with a weekend of workshops, readings, and plays June 1-3. One highlight for me was the reading Saturday night by Richard Wilbur. Wilbur is a formalist and at age 91, an indomitable testament to the power of poetry. He read in a light drizzle, with the occasional bleats of sheep and goats in the distance. His poems were enchanting and demonstrated the power of really, really good rhyme. So subtle, yet so incredibly satisfying was it to anticipate and then recognize the unexpected rhyme.
But more unexpected and startling was Wilbur's reading of a speech from The Misanthrope, a play by Moliere. The speech is by Eliante, a minor character, who riffs on the euphemisms attributed to women to describe their less-than-ideal characteristics. Wilbur translated the play into verse in 1965. As he began the lines, I felt them reverberate in my fingernails. Eliante was my first dramatic role, at Princeton University's Theatre Intime (no women admitted then; I was a townie ringer). In the air, a speech I hadn't thought about since I was 19. Yet the words were as familiar as my phone number. Richard Wilbur, reading "my" lines! Delicious! (The hubris of the young apparently extends indefinitely.)
What a fitting coincidence to introduce my blog, as it demonstrates the "page and stage" at work. I recall my stage fright back then, but my confidence that if I could just remember the first word of my speech, the rest would follow, as song lyrics follow effortlessly. Right then, in 1967, I learned the power of poetry.
Thank you, Richard Wilbur, and thank you, Sunken Garden. I hope you readers will comment on some of the odd coincidences that have formed you as a writer.