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Poetry readings: A tanka and In Trackless Woods


Poetry readings: Mayflies
Richard Wilbur Poet
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Here's the title poem of my next to last book. It's called Mayflies.

In sombre forest, when the sun was low,
I saw from unseen pools, a mist of flies
     In their quadrillions rise
And animate a ragged patch of glow
With sudden glittering - as when a crowd
        Of stars appear
Through a brief gap in black and driven cloud,
One arc of their great round-dance showing clear.
It was no muddled swarm I witnessed, for
In entrechats each fluttering insect there
        Rose two steep yards in air,
Then slowly floated down to climb once more,
So that they all composed a manifold
           And figured scene,
And seemed the weavers of some cloth of gold,
Or the fine pistons of some bright machine.
Watching those lifelong dancers of a day
As night closed in, I felt myself alone
       In a life too much my own,
More mortal in my separateness than they -
Unless, I thought, I had been called to be
          Not fly or star
But one whose task is joyfully to see
How fair the fiats of the caller are.

By no means all of my poems about natural things are religious in intention, but in this poem at any rate, one can clearly see that the natural world delights me by its order and that I attribute its order to the Creator.


Acclaimed US poet Richard Wilbur (1921-2017) published many books and was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He was less well known for creating a musical version of Voltaire's “Candide” with Bernstein and Hellman which is still produced throughout the world today.

Listeners: David Sofield

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).

Tags: Mayflies

Duration: 2 minutes, 2 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2005

Date story went live: 29 September 2010