Peter Davison Interviews Richard Wilbur: From The Atlantic Archives

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Longtime Atlantic poetry editor Peter Davison spoke with Pulitzer prize-winning poet Richard Wilbur back in 1999. They discussed Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, and the business of poetry.

In honor of National Poetry Month, here's a look at part of their exchange:

You have spent a lifetime in poetry now. What are you most grateful to poetry for?

I'm grateful to all of the poets of the past who have delighted me, and who gave me a feeling that I wanted to do something like that. And if there is a muse, I'm grateful to the muse for the occasional experience of making something as good as I wanted it to be.

And in your life—how are you grateful to poetry?

It happens that I like performing poetry. I really do like trotting around the country and reading poems to audiences, because I've gotten good at it over a period of time. Initially I had hysterical sore throats and muttered at my audiences, but I have gotten to be, within my limits, a showman, and I do enjoy that. I also enjoy being able to do something with the important feelings of my life. I think that to be inarticulate can be a great suffering, and I'm glad that my loves, and my other feelings, have sometimes found their way into poems that fully express them.

Read the entire interview, "Richard Wilbur: A Certain Logic."

See all of The Atlantic's Richard Wilbur coverage.

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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