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Wake Forest
University Press

Wake Forest University Press

Dedicated to Irish Poetry

Wake: Up to Poetry

"The act of poetry is a rebel act."

Poem of the Week: “Horace” by Harry Clifton

Horace reads before Maecenas, by Fyodor Bronnikov

Horace reads before Maecenas, by Fyodor Bronnikov

In his newest collection, Herod’s Dispensations (out this month), Harry Clifton makes use of allusions to underscore both comedy and tragedy. His poem “Horace” harkens back to the revered Roman lyric poet and calls on the larger literary canon to contrast with the experience of the contemporary poet.


That most vulgar of crowds the literary
—John Keats

Sick of that bloody poet, everywhere
Smart casual, urbane and circumspect,
Choosing his words with a little too much care
To be real anymore, command respect
Or say a single thing worth listening to,
It came to me the only road to go
(Not martyrdom) was sheer, deliberate death
Made to seem like accident—too slow
To be suicide, too chaotic for myth
To be shaped of it afterwards. Satires? Odes?
No, silence. And the Roman gods
Discredited, through whose eyes,
At too many wine receptions, weighing the odds,
I watched the art of perfect compromise.

Harry Clifton, from Herod’s Dispensations (2019)

Categories: Harry Clifton, New Releases, Poem of the WeekTags: ,

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