Wake: Up to Poetry
Poem of the Week: “Horace” by Harry Clifton
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
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.