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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. : PARTIAL ACCOUNTS New and Selected Poems by William Meredith (Alfred A. Knopf)

November 01, 1987

This collection begins in 1944 with poems from Meredith's first book, "Love Letter From an Impossible Land," which was chosen by Archibald MacLeish for the Yale Series of Younger Poets, and includes selections from his seven other books as well as new poems. TALK BACK (TO W. H. AUDEN)

for poetry makes nothing happen ... What it makes happen is small things,

sometimes, to some, in an area

already pretty well taken

care of by the sense. Thus, to

the eye, spruce needles fix the tufts

of new snow to the twigs so the

wind cannot dislodge them. They hold--

a metaphor. And in the ear,

the open, talking shapes, jet black,

in a snow-bound brook, croon about

cold. And snow-foliage on the

high slopes dupes the eye, the whirring

spruces dupe the ear, and you think:

catkins, maybe, in February

or you think: whirring of doves' wings.

And ice underfoot is mica--

correspondences a man will

find, to his slight alteration,

always, where he pays attention--

on a walk after powder-snow,

in a poem. As you well know.

Looked at carefully, nothing is sullen

but an inattentive creature.

Disorderly things praise order.

The exact details of our plight

in your poems, order revealed

by the closest looking, are things

I'm changed by and had never seen,

might never have seen, but for them.

Poetry makes such things happen

sometimes, as certain people do

at the right juncture of our lives.

Don't knock it, it has called across

the enchanted chasm of love

resemblances like rescue gear.

It is like finding on your tongue

right words to call across the floe

of arrogance to the wise dead,

of health to sickness, old to young.

Across this debt, we tell you so.

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