A Poem a Day: David Ferry’s Bewilderment

A few days I go I shared a translation of a Horatian Ode translated by David Ferry. I’ve been able to interact with Ferry in a few ways: we studied his translation of Gilgamesh in BU’s Core Curriculum, and I got to meet him a few times at poetry seminars we used to hold in BU’s Mugar Library, led by the wonderful George Kalogeris. Ferry was always very kind (I got him to autograph my book!), and I was impressed by the quality of the new poems he casually brought to the seminars.

He released a new book recently, in 2012: Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations won the National Book Award, and it was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Ferry has won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award, and he was awarded with the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 2011, one of the most prestigious literary prizes an American poet can be awarded for a lifetime of extraordinary achievement.

But what I like about Ferry is that he is a real artist: a real artist can find beauty in both the lofty and the seemingly mundane. I’ve chosen to share Ferry’s poem (picked from the new book) about a scenario I experience quite often here in Boston:

“At a Bar”

While in a bar I bore
Indignity with those
Others whose hearts were sore
Or sour or sick or such
As made them humankind,
I looked into my glass
To see if I could find
Something to give me ease.

Narcissus at the pool,
I looked lovingly at
My own disordered fool,
Who would not tell me much.
But stared patiently back.
He would not tell me what
I’d ever have or lack
He would not tell me that.

I looked along the bar
And saw my fellow creature
Bravely standing there.
“By word, sign, or touch,”
I cried, in my mute heart,
“Tell me, be my teacher,
Be learnèd in that art,
What is my name and nature?”

My pulse ticked in my wrist;
The noon hung around unawares;
Outside the traffic passed.
Like quiet cattle or such,
Standing about a pool,
Dumb ignorant creatures,
My fellow, my self, my fool,
Ignorant in our natures.

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One Response to A Poem a Day: David Ferry’s Bewilderment

  1. Pingback: Poem a Day 2014: Gilgamesh and David Ferry (#22 and #23) | The Educated Procrastinator

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