Katha Pollitt: poet, essayist, poet again.

One of the first books of poetry I loved by a contemporary poet was Katha Pollitt’s Antarctic Traveller. It was published in 1982. The final line of the cover copy is, “These beautiful poems announce a poet of outstanding gifts.” So you can imagine my surprise when I couldn’t find another book of poems by her, that there are no others. Pollitt went on to be a columnist for The Nation, and her following books were collections of essays, writings on current issues etc. Which I enjoyed, she’s a great writer in whatever medium she chooses; perhaps she’ll try a novel one day, everyone does. But I wished for poems. How does a poet cease to be a poet?

And then, as I’m marking up a Random House catalog, eureka! A new Katha Pollitt book, and it’s a book of POEMS! Namely, The Mind-Body Problem: And Other Poems. It’s not coming out until next spring, but after 26 years, I can wait one more. To see the cover: click here.

I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. It seems unspeakably sad to me when a truly fine poet stops publishing poems. In celebration, here’s an excerpt of a poem from her first collection:

This clear day comes like a letter from America
or a gift of big glass bells. 
All morning the sun

clanged on the roof and the high impossible clouds
created themselves out of nothing.
I think of palaces,
their windows brilliant with frost
or girls in blue hats
crossing the Pont de l’Alma like a procession of irises.
I say, Amaze me, amaze me:
these boulevards are streaming.
I move through the light like light…. 

from “Not Your Kind of Weather”

To read the rest, go find your own copy.

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