My Front Porch Republic friend James Matthew Wilson has a new book of poetry coming out in November, called The Violent And The Fallen . I’ve seen the poems, and they’re terrific. I am not much of a reader of poetry, so anything good I have to say about anybody’s poems is faint praise, even if I mean it to be something much more forceful. That said, when I read these poems, I kept thinking, “Yes, that’s how it is!” They are the work of a serious, literate, gifted young poet, one whose Catholic faith shines through every line. I encourage you to order your copy now, because they print run will depend on advance orders.
Here’s one of the poems from the collection, about a father, his art, and his baby girl:
A PRAYER FOR LIVIA GRACE
There’s little room left in this house for poetry,
Or in this world for any lasting language.
The managers and sales reps in the office
Who’ve ticketed their holidays are childless,
And looking toward five days of sun and liquor. They care for neither old books or a young daughter.
But somehow near me sleeps an infant daughter Who grows still to the cradle sounds of poetry, Eyelids dropped in the promise of sleep’s liquor. It charms her, yet she knows nothing of language; Nor did I, in a way, when I was childless, Preoccupied with filling another office
Than fatherhood. Now crowded in my office,
A crib and chest of pink drawers for my daughter Remind me that this empty room sat childless
Except for those ink-littered sheets of poetry,
When “child” was just a word and my child language, Which I would write and read at night with liquor.
Now she’s born, we have little time for liquor
And my desk’s crammed in a corner of the office, My papers lost beneath the brighter language
Of cardboard colored alphabets for my daughter.
I’m sure I wrote a different kind of poetry
When all my hours were filled though I was childless.
The TV news shows that, because they’re childless, Exercise, and avoid cigarettes and liquor,
Modern consumers live a life of poetry:
Controlled and self-absorbed as fits the office
Of sonnets or sestinas; their only daughter An iPod or such ephemeral techno-language.
I pray, my daughter, speak another language, That in the richest sense you not be childless, Your every act a kind of lasting daughter
More beautiful than bored clerks at their liquor. Though they find no room for it at the office, May you crowd your small corridors with poetry.
My daughter’s teething, needs her gums rubbed with liquor, Which stops my language, calls me from my office.
I go. May I have more of this child, less poetry.
— James Matthew Wilson
“… when I was childless, Preoccupied with filling another office”. Yes. “Another office/Than fatherhood.” I love how the poem turns on his office, as in the room at home where he works, having been taken over by the new baby, who makes him realize that his office (in the sense of “station in life”) he occupies as a father is superior to the office where he labors. That’s how it is! And so beautifully expressed.