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Portraits: Some Notes on the Poetry of Growing Old

Years and years ago—it would have to have been in 1958-59, a year that my wife and I and our two young children were living in Rome—I wrote a little satirical poem about famous old poets and what’s to become of them.  It was occasioned by a couple of things.  First, there was the arrival at the library of the American Academy in Rome, where I was working, of an anthology of contemporary poetry, one in which, to my foolish and youthful dismay, I was not mentioned or included.  That same day and place, I saw two bronze portraits done by one of the sculptors at the Academy, one of John Ciardi, the other of Archibald MacLeish.  Both of these men were featured in the new anthology.  I have no copy of my poem, only a loose memory of the last few lines (such as they were):

What finally becomes

of all these people,

people I mean

like John Ciardi

and Archibald MacLeish?

They get old.

They have their portraits

cast in bronze.

As best as I can recollect, it was never published anywhere.  Which is just as well.  It was disowned and discarded by myself, or perhaps some insistent editor...

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