Mary de Rachewiltz Poems

I meant to post a notice a month ago that there were three poems by Mary de Rachewiltz in the January issue of Poetry. You can read all three of them online:


Giving Birth

She Stands

I was reminded of this yesterday by a visit to Lippincott’s, the local used book store, where I found a copy of de Rachewiltz’s For the Wrong Reason: Poems (Edgewise, 2002), which the author inscribed to my late colleague Constance Hunting, who published some of the work in Puckerbrush Review.

An odd feature of this book is its method of organization, which de Rachewiltz explains in her preface:

In an era of artificial intelligence and time rules, it is more expedient and economical to present poems in alphabetical order. Since “all ages are contemporaneous” and we can “live a thousand years in a wink,” it matters little in what year a certain emotion ran wild and broke the sound barrier.

The two quoted phrases are often-cited dicta by her father, Ezra Pound, and come from The Spirit of Romance and The Cantos, respectively. Turning to I Canti (Mondadori, 1985), de Rachewiltz’s Italian edition of The Cantos — the first, I believe, to include the two Italian poems, 72 and 73 — I find the following rendering of the relevant lines from Canto 114: “per regnare, danzare in un labirinto, / E vivere mille anni in un attimo” (“to reign, to dance in a maze / To live a thousand years in a wink”).

I should add that this is my favorite edition of the Cantos: the English text is clear and reliable (to my understanding, the most reliable in print); and the book itself is small enough to fit in a coat pocket, notwithstanding all the pages added by translation. Whenever I hold the book in my hands, I think of Pound slipping a copy of Confucius into his pocket, along with a Chinese dictionary, when the partisans arrested him. If ever a poet cried out for a pocket-sized edition, it was Pound.

This year Mary de Rachewiltz celebrates her eightieth birthday, so stay tuned for more notices of her work. In the meantime, here is an untitled poem from For the Wrong Reason:

Her drama is wholly subjective
She provides her own chorus
On a stage where shuffling feet fall
Over the edge, inwardly
& all quick steps run from her
To the end of an empty world.
In the both’s endless
Horizon the desert presents
A mirage of the infinite
Symmetries and numbers
That follow the pull of arcane laws
Until the chorus sings: gloria,
Gloria. This is my beloved.
And she answers: kyrie.