Clairvoyant with Hunger: Essays on James Dickey, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Etc.

By Laurence Lieberman | Go to book overview

“Piccolini”

Looming and almost molten and slowly moving its gold down
the hill just behind my back is the summer villa of the poet, the
Grotte de Catullo.

But I care more now for the poetry of the present moment. An
easy thousand of silver, almost transparent piccolini are skimming
the surface of the long slab of volcanic stone. They swim through
a very tiny channel at the very rim of the lake. They tickle the skin
of my ankles, smaller than Latin diminutives.

Catullus, grieving over his Lesbia’s sparrow, turned misère from
harsh wretched into miselle, poor and little and lovely and gone,
all in one word.

But those tiny fish that tickle the skin of my ankles are already so
diminutive that they would have dissolved altogether into droplets
of mist at a mere touch of Catullus’s fingertip. I reckon that is why
he never wrote of them by name, but left them tiny and happy in
their lives in the waters, where they still have their lives and seem
to enjoy tickling the skin of my ankles.

How much this author continues to revere his great forerunner Catullus is never in doubt. This patch of Italy is still commandeered by Catullus’s reigning presence. His stone villa overlooking the rim of the far southern shore of Lake Garda is the castle of his kingdom, and the grand estate house smoldering in the midday sun is a haunting timeless landmark of the countryside. It looms over the poem “Piccolini” like a watchtower. It might as well be composed of gold ingots that

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Clairvoyant with Hunger: Essays on James Dickey, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Etc.
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iv
  • Clairvoyant with Hunger vi
  • Part 1 - James Dickey, Poems from the Eagle’S Mile 1
  • “the Eagle’S Mile” 2
  • “weeds” 7
  • “expanses” 10
  • “farmers” 13
  • “form” 16
  • “poem” 20
  • Homage to the Unburied: a Column - “sleepers” 30
  • “snow Thickets” 35
  • “the Three” 38
  • “the Six” 42
  • “circuit” 46
  • “eagles” 49
  • “night Bird” 51
  • “daybreak” 53
  • Warrior, Visionary, Natural Philosopher: James Dickey’S to the White Sea 56
  • Part 2 - James Wright’S Prose Poems 73
  • Of Two Sublimities: Love Poems “a Small Grove” 74
  • “in Gallipoli” 77
  • “the Gift of Change” 82
  • “flowering Olives” 87
  • “camomilla” 90
  • “may Morning” 96
  • “piccolini” 99
  • “regret for a Spider Web” 103
  • “the Snail at Assisi” 108
  • “the Sunlight Falling at Peace in Moret-Sur-Loing” 114
  • Paradigm for Prose Poems 118
  • “the Secret of Light” 119
  • “bari, Old and Young” 129
  • Part 3 - W.S. Merwin: Apotheosis of the Lepers 133
  • W. S. Merwin: Apotheosis of the Lepers 134
  • Part 4 - Igniting Sparks from Tamura’S Smithy 168
  • Igniting Sparks from Tamura’S Smithy 169
  • Part 5 183
  • On the Brink of Secession: Gwendolyn Brooks “the Wall” 184
  • “the Laggard Bird,” by Dunya Mikhail 192
  • David Bottoms’ Grueling Miracle: Faith in Middle Age 219
  • Part 6 - The Pull of the Sentence: on My Influences 250
  • Voice to Voice 251
  • The Most Essential Element of All: an Interview with Laurence Lieberman 269
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