Acclaimed US poet Richard Wilbur has published many books and has twice been awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He is less well known for creating a musical version of Voltaire's “Candide” with Bernstein and Hellman which is still produced throughout the world today.
This poem is called "Cottage Street, 1953", and it has to do with a visit my wife and I made to her mother in Wellesley, Massachusetts for the sake of some afternoon tea and for the sake of meeting Sylvia Plath and her mother, who, who did live in Wellesley and were friends of my mother in law, Mrs Ward. My assignment when I went to tea that day was to be encouraging to the very young Sylvia Plath about the life of the poet, and to hearten her to set aside her suicidal urges and go on with her writing. That of course was a very difficult assignment, which I clearly failed.
David Sofield is the Samuel Williston Professor of English at Amherst College, where he has taught the reading and writing of poetry since 1965. He is the co-editor and a contributor to Under Criticism (1998) and the author of a book of poems, Light Disguise (2003).