December 10: A Day of Poet Births

Though I’m not a superstitious sort, I do think synchronicities are interesting, and are also very helpful for making broad connections between events.

Today, December 10, is the birthday of three poets to whom I owe a great debt.

The first is Emily Dickinson, without whom it is impossible to imagine the world of contemporary American poetry. Her interior turn and imagistic inventiveness exerted a powerful influence over that which followed. Is there anyone in America who is unfamiliar with at least a few of her poems? If so, I should hope that someone who loves them corrects that deficiency very soon.

The second poet born today is less well-known than Dickinson, at least here in America. Part of that is due to the fact that she wrote in German, having been born in Berlin, though she lived out her life in Sweden after fleeing the horrors of the Holocaust. Nelly Sachs was one of the great poets of post-war Europe, and along with her close correspondent Paul Celan, she wrote into being a response to the unthinkable horror of the Nazi death machine. Her verse was deceptively simple and stark, but contained within it an astonishing complexity and depth of emotion.

The third poet born on this day was Thomas Lux, whose work I became aware of shortly before his death at far too young an age. He was a master of irony, of tension, and of observation — one of those poets whose voice was such that you felt drawn in and intimate with the speaker of his poems, and yet the poems still held their surprises.

Today was also a day that I was able to see my friend Stephen Furlong read from his first chapbook via a livestream, and it was a profoundly moving experience. His work is stunning, and I’m grateful for the chance to see and hear it out in the world.