Driving home this evening, I heard poet Albert Goldbarth read his poem Shawl on The NewsHour. Goldbarth is the only poet to twice win the National Book Critics Circle award for poetry. He won it in 1991 for his collection Heaven and Earth: A Cosmology, and in 2001 for Saving Lives. Of his 25 books of poetry published to date, To Be Read in 500 Years is his most recent, published in 2009. Goldbarth is also the winner of the 2008 Mark Twain Poetry Award from the Poetry Foundation. Goldbarth does not own a computer. He writes longhand in spiral bound notebooks with inexpensive pens. When he feels a poem is complete, he types it. In his interview on The NewsHour, Goldbarth said, "It feels to me as if I were born to write, that that's why I was put on Earth, and I've been trying to be the best poet I know how to be." I was so taken with Goldbarth and his poem Shawl that when I arrived home I immdeiately sat down to share them here.
Eight hours by bus, and night
was on them. He could see himself now
in the window, see his head there with the country
running through it like a long thought made of steel and wheat.
Darkness outside; darkness in the bus -- as if the sea
were dark and the belly of the whale were dark to match it.
He was twenty: of course his eyes returned, repeatedly,
to the knee of the woman two rows up: positioned so
occasional headlights struck it into life.
But more reliable was the book; he was discovering himself
to be among the tribe that reads. Now his, the only
overhead turned on. Now nothing else existed:
only him, and the book, and the light thrown over his shoulders
as luxuriously as a cashmere shawl.