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The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, 1987 : POETRY PRIZE : On Nov . 6, The Times will award its annual Book Prizes in five categories--biography, history, fiction, poetry and current interest--along with the Robert Kirsch Award for a body of work by a writer living in or writing on the West. This week we publish excerpts from the books nominated in poetry. : SELECTED POEMS, 1957-1987 by W.D. Snodgrass (Soho Press)

November 01, 1987

Snodgrass, whose first book of poems won the Pulitzer Prize nearly three decades ago, evinces the full range of his work in this collection: from his early confessional poems to current verses inspired by a series of paintings by DeLoss McGraw. From "Coroner's Inquest":

Who killed Cock Robin?

Don't you blyme me, says the sparrow;

I gone strictly straight-and-narrow,

Reformed, true-blue, a real straight arrow.

I never done that slob in.

Who saw him die?

Not I, certainly, says the fly;

My dear, this polyhedral eye

Can only make things out nearby.

I mind my own bee's wax; that's my

Alibi.

Who'll dig his grave?

I'm committed, says the mole,

To exploring my own hole

Liberated from control

Of any social, prefixed role;

I keep my deep molehood whole

Seeking my true self and soul.

My blind eye's fixed on this goal;

Go find a cave.

Who'll bear his casket?

Count me out there, says the ant.

I'm too small; I simply can't.

With my legion friends, I grant

We might, yet we're all adamant

That unless he should recant

Each lewd song and surreal chant

With their sly, anarchic shan't

So don't ask it.

Who'll say the last words?

Of course I'd like to, says the parrot;

I'm aware that all his merit

Was so rare we can't compare it,

Yet my grief and great despair at

This sad loss, if I should share it,

Is so vast, I couldn't bear it.

Then besides, my friends don't care at

All for anyone who'd dare it.

Those that sing strange songs inherit

Faint praise--few and fast words.

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