Saturday, April 16, 2011

Poet and Translator David Ferry wins $100,000 prize

Poetry may not yet be as lucrative as golf and football but I've noted in recent weeks a few big awards out there.

And they don't come much bigger than the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement, which has just been awarded to translator and poet David Ferry, the New York Times reports.

Born in Orange, New Jersey in 1924, Ferry is an emeritus professor at Wellesley College. He still teaches at both Boston University and Suffolk University. He is midway through a translation of Virgil’s Aeneid and has his new collection of poems, “Bewilderment,” due out next year.

The Soldier by David Ferry

Saturday afternoon. The barracks is almost empty.

The soldiers are almost all on overnight pass.
There is only me, writing this letter to you,
And one other soldier, down at the end of the room,
And a spider, that hangs by the thread of his guts,
His tenacious and delicate guts, Swift's spider,
All self-regard, or else all privacy.
The dust drifts in the sunlight around him, as currents
Lie in lazy, drifting schools in the vast sea.
In his little sea the spider lowers himself
Out of his depth. He is his own diving bell,
Though he cannot see well. He observes no fish,
And sees no wonderful things. His unseeing guts
Are his only hold on the world outside himself.
I love you, and miss you, and I find you hard to imagine.
Down at the end of the room, the other soldier
Is getting ready, I guess, to go out on pass.
He is shining his boots. He sits on the edge of his bunk,
Private, submissive, and heedful of himself,
And, bending over himself, he is his own nest.
The slightest sound he makes is of his being.
He is his mother, and nest, wife, brother, and father.
His boots are bright already, yet still he rubs
And rubs till, brighter still, they are his mirror,
And in this mirror he observes, I guess,
His own submissiveness. He is far from home.


  1. Wow, that was beautiful. My mom works with the Vets, I'm going to send this on to her...

    Double wow for 100k!!!

  2. for sure Samantha - wish someone would dosh me $100,000 for a few lines of verse

  3. $100,000 is quite a healthy paycheck for a poem. Pretty impressive. Too bad that doesn't happen more often.

  4. really Daisy - pity it's not more common in writing