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Finding the right girl for me


Menacing totalitarian mandibles!
Richard Wilbur Poet
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Once again, at Montclair High School I felt a little bit odd because I was from so far away and a little bit lonely sometimes, but as I've talked to other people about their lives, it seems to me that loneliness is really the condition of people in their 15th and 16th years, and so I shouldn't overemphasize that, and in fact somehow... I was somehow elected secretary of my class, so that I must, without knowing it, have been fairly popular. I was editor of the Montclair High School newspaper. In fact, all during my youth, wherever I went, I edited the paper, and I don't suppose I did anything very distinguished as a high school newspaper editor. I do remember one phrase from an editorial I wrote. I spoke there of 'menacing totalitarian mandibles'. That reflects my pride in knowing that the jawbone is a mandible and of course I was thinking of the great jaw of Mussolini. My guess is that I had nothing at all to say in my editorial and that I was simply proud of showing off the word mandible. It was something I continued to do as I edited things, I continued to make a display of verbal facility and of new words without really having any urgent message. If I had positions as a young man, they were quite simply the positions of the new deal, and I was for Franklin Roosevelt then and I am now.

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: Benito Mussolini, Franklin Roosevelt

Duration: 2 minutes, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008