The Epigrammatic Power of Richar Wilbur

Another Touchstone: the utterly remarkable concision

Richard Wilbur could achieve in one brilliant metaphor.

Here is "Sleepless at Crown Point":


    All night, this headland

    Lunges into the rumpling

    Capework of the wind.


Hard to know where to begin singing the praises of this amazing poem, a haiku

that like many others by Wilbur, near-rhymes (here, "land" with "wind"). Perhaps

start by pointing out that all three touchstones so far are very short poems, making

considerable demands on the poet without frightening off the reader? Wilbur's

conservative lineation (he never stopped capitalizing his lines' first words, and all

the more praise to him for doing so) seems to insist on the importance of what is

happening despite the brief five or seven syllables employed. I think we stop and

concentrate and pay respect because of this.


Marvels: no bull appears in this poem (so no animal was harmed in its filming),

yet the bullfighting metaphor is clear; the wind becomes a matador rumpling

his/its cape at the lunging beast that is the headland; the headland subtly

picks up on the bull's head; and the headland suggests a cliff or cape (of land).


And if this night of insomnia occurs at Crown Point, is it likely to be

the town on the western shore of Lake Champlain? Further researches

may be in order.


In short, compact haiku that does what so many fail to: make itself

truly memorable by virtue of its astounding ability to see metaphor

where I suspect most of us would come back from the experience

with little more than a complaint of sleeplessness.