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A Black Birch in Winter -Richard Wilbur | Trending News Buzz

Wilbur "never goes too far, but he never goes far enough."

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There were some people who did not value Richard Wilbur. He was awarded a number of Pulitzer Prizes in addition to the National Book Award, and he served as the second Poet Laureate of the United States. Despite this, a significant number of readers considered him to be… not particularly memorable. Reviewing Wilbur’s book The Mind-Reader for the New York Times, one critic described the experience as being similar to having a conversation with “an old buddy whose chatter is kind but familiar—and occasionally tedious.” Another critic stated that Wilbur “never goes too far, but he never goes far enough.” He frequently expressed sincere admiration for the natural world in his writing, a style that was particularly out of fashion in the 1960s, during the height of the dark, personal “confessional poetry” that Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton had popularized.

Wilbur acknowledged that, sure, he did have a propensity to have a positive outlook on life and the world. He said this was something he took pride in. When questioned about his beliefs, he once responded that he believed “the ultimate character of everything is comely and good.” This was in response to the question of what he believed. Despite the fact that I am well aware that I am asserting this in the face of a substantial amount of evidence to the contrary, and that I must be basing it partially on temperament and partially on faith, that is the perspective that I hold; yet, that is how I feel. In spite of this, the philosophical foundations of his optimism remained intact. The following lines from the poem “A Black Birch in Winter” illustrate this point: The art critic for The New York Times made a reference to the poem when he wrote that Wilbur is, at best, “a fine amateur natural historian,” who is able to paint endearing portraits of birches and various other species of flora and fauna. In his review, the critic said that Wilbur is capable of painting charming depictions of birches and other types of flora and wildlife. However, there is absolutely no attention paid to trees in any manner, shape, or form throughout the piece. It is about the ways in which the passing of our years can offer us with fresh perspectives, similar to the way that new wood might grow on an old tree trunk. It is also about the ways in which time can make us open and wide-eyed rather than “finished” and lifeless in our outlook on the world.

In addition, it is pretty clear that Wilbur is making a reference to the poem “Birches” that was written by his instructor Robert Frost. Frost’s mind transports him to a world where he sees a small boy climbing a birch tree and making his way upward toward the sky. Frost follows the boy as he climbs higher and higher. It seems as though he is trying to convey that it would be rather appealing to continue travelling forever and entirely escape normal life. On the other hand, at some point you will have to work your way back down. In his writing, Frost asserts that “Earth is the right location for love.” [Citation needed] It has been said that “A Black Birch” was composed as a response to those individuals who considered that Wilbur’s work lacked ambition. This is one reading of the poem. In poetry, it is of unquestionable significance to strive for major subjects, such as questions concerning life and death as well as the boundaries of the human condition. Wilbur, however, gave the impression that he thought it was feasible to accomplish this while still remaining on Earth and gazing upward.

As we go closer and closer to the year 2023, it appears that the metaphor of the ageing birch tree is becoming more and more apt. This has been a difficult year for me, and as a result, I feel worn down and “roughened,” similar to how the bark on a tree that was once “smooth and glossy-dark” now appears to be “roughened.” But I will go into the New Year with the attitude that it is a “annual rebirth,” and I will attempt to master what the birch tree has accomplished: “To grow, stretch, crack, yet not yet come apart.”

Here’s the Poem by Richard Wilbur:

You might not know this old tree by its bark,
Which once was striate, smooth, and glossy-dark,
So deep now are the rifts that separate
Its roughened surface into flake and plate.

Fancy might less remind you of a birch
Than of mosaic columns in a church
Like Ara Coeli or the Lateran
Or the trenched features of an agèd man.

Still, do not be too much persuaded by
These knotty furrows and these tesserae
To think of patterns made from outside in
Or finished wisdom in a shriveled skin.

Old trees are doomed to annual rebirth,
New wood, new life, new compass, greater girth,
And this is all their wisdom and their art—
To grow, stretch, crack, and not yet come apart.

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