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Henri Coulette's 'The War of the Secret Agents'


A reading of the poem Owls
WD Snodgrass Poet
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This is just called Owls.


Wait; the great horned owls

Calling from the woods' edge; listen.

   There: the dark male, low

And booming, tremoring the whole valley.

   There: the female, resolving, answering

High and clear, restoring silence.

   The chilly woods draw in

Their breath, slow, waiting, and now both

   Sound out together, close to harmony.


   These are the year's worst nights.

Ice glazed on the top boughs,

   Old snow deep in the ground,

Snow in the red-tailed hawks'

   Nests they take for their own.

Nothing crosses the crusted ground.

   No squirrels, no rabbits, the mice gone,

No crow has young yet they can steal.

   These nights, the iron air clangs

Like the gates of a cellblock, blank

   and black as the inside of your chest.

   Now, the great owls take

The air, the males' calls take

   Depth on and resonance, they take

A rough nest, take their mate

   And, opening out long wings, take

Flight, unguided and apart, to caliper

   The blind synapse their voices cross

Over the dead white fields,

   The dead black woods, where they take

Soundings on nothing fast, take

   Soundings on each other, each alone.


So. I mean I think you can hear that… that call coming in again and again and variations of it. That… I… I was- I… I know that I was imitating Whitman in doing… when I did that. Now and then, he will… he will establish a rhythm quite different from the rhythm that you get in metrical verse or someth… and… and then work variations on that. We… I think we talked about that yesterday… We did…if I… if I'm not mistaken… We did… talked about Out of the Cradle. Yeah. Well, I was sort of trying to imitate what he was doing in Out of the Cradle.


American poet WD Snodgrass, entered the world of poetry with a bang winning several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, for his first collection of poetry, Heart's Needle. A backlash followed his controversial fifth anthology “The Fuehrer Bunker”, but in recent years these poems have been reassessed and their importance recognised.

Listeners: William B. Patrick

William B. Patrick is a writer and poet who lives in Troy, New York. Among his work are the poetry volumes "We Didn't Come Here for This" and "These Upraised Hands", the novel "Roxa: Voices of the Culver Family" and the plays "Rescue" and "Rachel's Dinner". His most recent work is the non-fiction book "Saving Troy", based on the year he spent following the Troy Fire Department.

Mr. Patrick has been Writer-in-Residence at the New York State Writers Institute and has taught at Old Dominion University, Onondaga Community College, and Salem State College, and workshops in Screenwriting and Playwriting at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference in Roanoke, Virginia. He has received grants from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Tags: Out of the Cradle, Walt Whitman

Duration: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008