Monday, August 17, 2009

Endpoint and Other Poems

Endpoint and Other Poems
by John Updike
Knopf, 2009. 97 pgs. Poetry

Updike's final volume of verse begins with his nearing death. In birthday poems to himself he wryly laments his lost youth, the joys, beauties, and sorrows of a life rich in living and in letters. What must have been his last poem, written in December of 2008 (he died in January) is the hardest to take " . . . The tongue reposes in papyrus please,/saying, Surely--magnificent, that "surely"--/goodness and mercy shall follow me all/the days of my life, my life, forever. After that opening, the book lightens as he wonders in a tightly knit sonnet how tool manufacturers ever turn a profit (". . . Their stubborn shapes pervade the cellar,/ enduring with a thrift that shames our wastrel lives") or what the Mars Rovers might signal to one another: "'There's life, by all the stars above,/On Mars--it's you and I!'/Blithe Spirit cried, 'Let's rove, my love,/And meet before we die!'" Another great one gone, alas.


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