Friday, June 24, 2016

Birthday: John Ciardi saw writing as a business. "I am my broker's keeper," he joked.

ciardi's Dante.png

John Anthony Ciardi (1916-1986)
Poet, critic, author, translator, educator
Recipient, the Prix de Rome, 1956


Yesterday Mrs. Friar phoned.' Mr. Ciardi,
how do you do?' she said. 'I am sorry to say
this isn't exactly a social call. The fact is
your dog has just deposited-forgive me-
a large repulsive object in my petunias.'

I thought to ask, 'Have you checked the rectal grooving
for a positive I.D.?' My dog, as it happened,
was in Vermont with my son, who had gone fishing-
if that's what one does with a girl, two cases of beer,
and a borrowed camper. I guessed I'd get no trout.

But why lose out on organic gold for a wise crack?
'Yes, Mrs. Friar,' l said, 'I understand.'
'Most kind of you,' she said. 'Not at all,' I said.
I went with a spade. She pointed, looking away.
'I always have loved dogs,' she said, 'but really!'

I scooped it up and bowed. 'The animal of it.
I hope this hasn't upset you, Mrs. Friar.'
'Not really,' she said, 'but really!' I bore the turd
across the line to my own petunias
and buried it till the glorious resurrection

when even these suburbs shall give up their dead.

One critic said, “"John Ciardi long has been the rare American who could walk into a bank, declare his occupation as 'poet,' and emerge with a mortgage." A tireless champion of poetry and writing, Ciardi was at home behind a mic and in front of a camera. He was a longtime teacher, holding posts at Kansas City, Harvard and Rutgers before taking a seven-year journey as poetry editor of Saturday Review (then edited by Norman Cousins, born this day in 1912).

To spend more time entertaining his kids, Ciardi took up children’s verse, then young adult fiction. He directed the Broad Loaf Writer’s Conference for seventeen years, then was fired for being too much a fogey for the age of the Beats and Black Mountain. He published a still-in-print translation of Dante (1964-70), and for the last decade of his life was a fixture on NPR Morning Edition, with his three-minute “Word in Your Ear” commentaries on etymology.

The Poetry Foundation said of him,

To millions of Americans, the late John Ciardi was "Mr. Poet, the one who has written, talked, taught, edited, translated, anthologized, criticized, and propelled poetry into a popular, lively art," according to Peter Comer of theChicago Tribune. Although recognized primarily as a poet and critic, Ciardi's literary endeavors encompassed a vast range of material. From juvenile nonsense poetry to scholarly verse translations, Ciardi made an impact upon the general public. His poetry received popular approval while his academic research attracted critical kudos. Driven by his love of words and language, John Ciardi provided lively and frequently controversial offerings to the literary scene.

Related sites

John Ciardi, 1971

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