Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bewilderment by David Ferry

I did not know this was a book of poetry when I ordered it. It was on someone’s very interesting list of “Best Books of 2012” and I thought I’d heard the name of David Ferry, but I couldn’t remember where. On Christmas morning, I rose much earlier than everyone else and felt I’d received a very special gift when I pulled out this slim volume to read with my coffee. Then I remembered where I’d seen his name: on the most popular translation of Gilgamesh at my local bookstore.

David Ferry is a learned man who wears his erudition lightly. His understanding of humankind feels deep and ancient and he can write as piercingly of the men of myth as he does of the homeless adrift upon our streets. The vulnerability he reveals in his poems leaves the reader breathless; the depth of his knowledge leaves the reader grateful. I found myself following threads and searching names, recognizing phrases and oft-told stories, lost in the glory of his well-chosen words. After, having made some connection with ancient souls, I was ready to participate in the pageantry of my holiday.

In this collection, Ferry gives us new poems, translations, and poems written in response to the work of other poets. It is a delight from start to finish. A beautiful thing is "Dedication to His Book" by Catullus I, to Cornelius Nepos, or Cavafy's "In Despair." These words are better seen than not seen.

But listen, first, to David Ferry reading "Soul", the poem from which he takes his title. And read of bewilderment by another name: "That Now are Wild and Do Not Remember."

David Ferry won the 2012 National Book Award for this collection. The University of Chicago Press deserves kudos for the beauty of this volume and the quality of the printing.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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