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 own streets The vulnerability he reveals in his poems leaves the reader breathless his depth of 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. Winner Of The National Book Award For PoetryTo Read David Ferry S Bewilderment Is To Be Reminded That Poetry Of The Highest Order Can Be Made By The Subtlest Of Means The Passionate Nature And Originality Of Ferry S Prosodic Daring Works Astonishing Transformations That Take Your Breath Away In Poem After Poem, His Diction Modulates Beautifully Between Plainspoken High Eloquence And Colloquial Vigor, Making His Distinctive Speech One Of The Most Interesting And Ravishing Achievements Of The Past Half Century Ferry Has Fully Realized Both The Potential For Vocal Expressiveness In His Phrasing And The Way His Phrasing Plays Against And With His Genius For Metrical Variation His Vocal Phrasing Thus Becomes An Amazingly Flexible Instrument Of Psychological And Spiritual Inquiry Most Poets Write Inside A Very Narrow Range Of Experience And Feeling, Whether In Free Or Metered Verse But Ferry S Use Of Meter Tends To Enhance The Colloquial Nature Of His Writing, While Giving Him Access To An Immense Variety Of Feeling Sometimes That Feeling Is So Powerful It S Like Witnessing A Volcanologist Taking Measurements In The Midst Of An Eruption Ferry S Translations, Meanwhile, Are Amazingly Acclimated English Poems Once His Voice Takes Hold Of Them They Are As Bred In The Bone As All His Other Work And The Translations In This Book Are Vitally Related To The Original Poems Around Them From Bewilderment OctoberThe Day Was Hot, And Entirely Breathless, SoThe Remarkably Quiet Remarkably Steady Leaf FallSeemed As If It Had No Cause At AllThe Ticking Sound Of Falling Leaves Was LikeThe Ticking Sound Of Gentle Rainfall AsThey Gently Fell On Leaves Already Fallen,Or As, When As They Passed Them In Their Falling,Now And Again It Happened That One Of Them TouchedOne Or Another Leaf As Yet Not Falling,Still Clinging To The Idea Of Being Summer As If The Leaves That Were Falling, But Not The Day,Had Read, And Understood, The Calendar David Ferry was born in 1924 Having retired after a long career as professor of English at Wellesley College in 1989, he has continued his work as a translator and poet, publishing this, his most recent poetry collection, in 2012 His wife, the literary scholar Anne Ferry, to whom he was married for 48 years, died in 2006 Ferry s recent poetry has been in part a retrospective of his life and in part a continuing reflection on love and loss, focused on the person of Anne and on their relationship I am able to read his work only through the lenses of an aging person myself, but I believe that the themes he addresses and the thoughts he shares can resonate with readers and thinkers of any age.While Ferry is not a strict poetic formalist, he does often seem to prefer to work in iambic pentameter Within that modest constraint, however, he ranges far afield His translations, for example, are in part structured by the original poems from which he works Many of his translations are from poets who wrote in Latin, and his insights and felicitous choices of idiom, syntax, and grammar often reveal fresh nuances to the originals.In his own original poetry, especially those poems reflecting on Anne and his sense of loss since her death, he frequently works from the general to the specific, and it is often only in the final stanza or lines that the full poignancy of his feelings emerges Time and again I found myself rereading such a poem several times in succession, each rereading revealing new depths of loss, anguish, confusion, and yes bewilderment When, moments after she died, I looked into her face,It was as untelling as something natural,A lake, say, the surface of it unreadable,Its sources of meaning unfindable any.Her mouth was open as if she had something to say But maybe my saying so is a figure of speech This collection is a gift from Ferry to his readers, and it is gratefully received. I know who David Ferry is, and I wish I could connect with the poems in this book A one sentence review would be Decent, but not my thing I think the moment that explained to me why I couldn t came in his response poems to Arthur Gold, where I connected immediately with the AG poems and less so with the DF responses The new translations of several classic works were nicely done, and were highlights for me A few other favorite moments In the Reading Room, online at the Poetry FoundationDespite saying the response poems are my least favorite, I love the last stanza of Reading Arthur Gold s Poem Chest Cancer In our consenting, by the ways we spendOur days obeying the laws of how things are,We deliver each other up unto the GodUntil one day no Ram is caught in the thicket.The other favorite is clearly an homage to Thomas Wyatt, but I can t find it online anywhere It is called That Now Are Wild and Do Not Remember. David Ferry was my best teacher and the only one of whom I remember a specific lesson so I am thrilled that he won the National Book Award for poetry with this volume It is brilliant in its use of varied metrical schemes and delightfully surprising word use and sad in its obvious records of present loss and coming loss In order, I liked best the poems of personal experience, then the poems in reaction to others work Mozart, Arthur Gold, etc and then the lively translations In some poems, he refers to people he loved by their full names, a touching and I think unusual memorial. This is a fair collection of poetry, with glimpses of brilliance, but the greatest thing about this book is the collection itself assembling ancient poetry centered around themes of familial loss, rendering it in modern verse, and then weaving a light narrative with original poems interlaced between passages from the Bible and the Aeneid is fantastically charming This must be the best poetry collection of 2012. David Ferry has a mastery of rhythm and meter that makes his translations of classical verse feel very right The same rhythms permeate his original verse sometimes that works, but sometimes I m left wondering why dactyls Why Some of these poems set up an interesting conceit or exploration of their topic but fail to explore it enough or conclude in a satisfying way Narcissus Others wander around too much before getting to the point Lake Water Poems with fewer than five words seem like an indulgence a less famous poet couldn t get away with unless those words carried shattering insight, which these do not Untitled At the interesting end of the spectrum, The Offering of Isaac, a translation of a translation of a translation, is really excellent Brunswick, Maine, Early Winter, 2000 is searingly effective at transmitting its emotions The Reading Arthur Gold s Poem series are an interesting experiment in literary criticism in verse, a very Horatian exploit that is a good reminder that poetry can be used for non lyric purposes In that same vein, some of the most interesting moments of the collection come when a snippet of a translation is embedded in a poem, as Nietzsche in Brunswick and Goethe in The Intention of Things Finally, The Late Hour Poem is delightful, albeit stuck in the wrong century.All in all, reading this was worth my time, but I will probably not bother to re read it. How many bards gild the lapses of time , John Keats writes, But no confusion, no disturbance rude Do they occasion tis a pleasing chime So the unnumbered sounds that evening store the songs of birds the whispering of the leaves the voice of waters the great bell that heaves with solemn sound and thousand others that distance of recognizance bereaves, make pleasing music, and not wild uproar That sense of sad harmony pervades David Ferry s sublime new collection, where translations of the great masters sit side by side with Ferry s own poems, each amplifying the elegiac tone of the other This is most explicit in the sixth section of the book, where Ferry first offers a poem by Arthur Gold apparently a friend and colleague , then follows it up with a poem of his own that elaborates on Gold s poems The poems that result are like nothing I ve ever read before at once a homage to a departed mind, a critical close reading, and a profound meditation on the themes of the original text, while still managing to be moving poems in themselves Elsewhere the resonances are subtler, so that only a phrase or an image from the original will find its way into Ferry s own work, but the overall sense is of a connection to an unbroken, or rather, a broken but still abiding tradition, of a great depth of feeling, a great sea of human grief, from which these poems are only the latest waves, delivering their fluid messages at one s feet What Ferry has created in Bewilderment is something greater than the usual collection of fine lyric though fine poems are to be found here in multitudes he has written a great echo chamber of a book, reverberate with voices modern and ancient, all, like Echo, trying to make sense of a loss no less bewildering for being inevitable.This may be the finest book of new poems published in 2012. One of the best new collections of poetry I ve read in years It s so nice that Ferry is not only capable of impressive translations Cavafy, Virgil , but that he can blend in those great old sentiments with his own There s nothing better than a poet who is keenly aware of classical forms but has matured and relaxed to the point that he uses the forms and sometimes defies them rather than vice versa These are grown up poems, made to illuminate rather than dazzle.from the Latin of Catullus Who is it I should give my little book to,So pretty in its pumice polished cover Cornelius, I ll give my book to you Because you used to think my nothings somethingsfrom Brunswick, Maine, Early Winter 2000 That day when Suzie drove us out to getThe lobsters at the lobster place at the cove Bill Moran in the passenger seat of the car,Doubled as if in a fit of laughter,A paroxysm of helpless, silent laughter,At the joke Parkinson s had played on him.The big joke he simply couldn t get over.And this last one perfect I was really intrigued by the way Ferry arranges his poems, so that one poem by Fery responds to or analyzes another poem, either one he has translated here from Virgil, for example or else a poem by his friend Arthur Gold that he packs into his own poem In essence, Ferry s poems are often sort of poetic essays, reading and interpreting the poems he is talking about, and he finds intriguing dimensions in the poems that I hadn t considered before So, as a thinker about poetry, Ferry has a lot of interest to say.The themes of the poems themselves are concerned with death and dying it s hard not to see this as a response to Ferry s age and looming mortality, as morbid as it is to say something like that There are some moving poems, early in the book especially, about his wife s passing But overall, emotionally, Ferry isn t where I am I am capable, I should hope, of empathizing with someone in Ferry s stage of life But the appeal of these poems, I think, isn t meant to move you in that way, and for me at least, it didn t.