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The poetry of American novelist John Updike

Two for January

  • January
  • The days are short, 
  • The sun a spark, 
  • Hung thin between 
  • The dark and dark. 
  • Fat snowy footsteps 
  • Track the floor. 
  • Milk bottles burst 
  • Outside the door.
  • The river is 
  • A frozen place 
  • Held still beneath 
  • The trees of lace.
  • The sky is low. 
  • The wind is gray. 
  • The radiator 
  • Purrs all day.
  • Penumbrae
  • The shadows have their seasons, too. 
  • The feathery web the budding maples 
  • cast down upon the sullen lawn
  • bears but a faint relation to 
  • high summer’s umbrageous weight 
  • and tunnellike continuum—
  • black leached from green, deep pools 
  • wherein a globe of gnats revolves 
  • as airy as an astrolabe.
  • The thinning shade of autumn is 
  • an inherited Oriental, 
  • red worn to pink, nap worn to thread.
  • Shadows on snow look blue. The skier, 
  • exultant at the summit, sees his poles 
  • elongate toward the valley: thus
  • each blade of grass projects another 
  • opposite the sun, and in marshes 
  • the mesh is infinite,
  • as the winged eclipse an eagle in flight 
  • drags across the desert floor 
  • is infinitesimal.
  • And shadows on water!— 
  • the beech bough bent to the speckled lake 
  • where silt motes flicker gold,
  • or the steel dock underslung 
  • with a submarine that trembles, 
  • its ladder stiffened by air.
  • And loveliest, because least looked-for, 
  • gray on gray, the stripes 
  • the pearl-white winter sun
  • hung low beneath the leafless wood 
  • draws out from trunk to trunk across the road 
  • like a stairway that does not rise.
John Updike

John Updike (1932-2009) was an American novelist, short-story writer and poet who was generally best known in that order of avocations. His fiction earned him several awards, including twice being awarded the Pulitzer Prize; he is well known as one of the mainstays of short fiction and poetry in The New Yorker. With more than 20 novels to his name—Updike wrote on average, one book a year—he is considered one of the premiere American writers of this time. He also published eight books of poetry – including his first published book, The Carpentered Hen (1958). Although he began writing poetry in a lighter vein, the whimsical elements were carried over into his more series verse as his talent developed. His poetry is marked by both a precision of language and metaphysical depth, both harkening to the likes of such 17th-century poets as John Donne and George Herbert.

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  • January
  • The days are short, 
  • The sun a spark, 
  • Hung thin between 
  • The dark and dark. 
  • Fat snowy footsteps 
  • Track the floor. 
  • Milk bottles burst 
  • Outside the door.
  • The river is 
  • A frozen place 
  • Held still beneath 
  • The trees of lace.
  • The sky is low. 
  • The wind is gray. 
  • The radiator 
  • Purrs all day.
  • Penumbrae
  • The shadows have their seasons, too. 
  • The feathery web the budding maples 
  • cast down upon the sullen lawn
  • bears but a faint relation to 
  • high summer’s umbrageous weight 
  • and tunnellike continuum—
  • black leached from green, deep pools 
  • wherein a globe of gnats revolves 
  • as airy as an astrolabe.
  • The thinning shade of autumn is 
  • an inherited Oriental, 
  • red worn to pink, nap worn to thread.
  • Shadows on snow look blue. The skier, 
  • exultant at the summit, sees his poles 
  • elongate toward the valley: thus
  • each blade of grass projects another 
  • opposite the sun, and in marshes 
  • the mesh is infinite,
  • as the winged eclipse an eagle in flight 
  • drags across the desert floor 
  • is infinitesimal.
  • And shadows on water!— 
  • the beech bough bent to the speckled lake 
  • where silt motes flicker gold,
  • or the steel dock underslung 
  • with a submarine that trembles, 
  • its ladder stiffened by air.
  • And loveliest, because least looked-for, 
  • gray on gray, the stripes 
  • the pearl-white winter sun
  • hung low beneath the leafless wood 
  • draws out from trunk to trunk across the road 
  • like a stairway that does not rise.
John Updike

John Updike (1932-2009) was an American novelist, short-story writer and poet who was generally best known in that order of avocations. His fiction earned him several awards, including twice being awarded the Pulitzer Prize; he is well known as one of the mainstays of short fiction and poetry in The New Yorker. With more than 20 novels to his name—Updike wrote on average, one book a year—he is considered one of the premiere American writers of this time. He also published eight books of poetry – including his first published book, The Carpentered Hen (1958). Although he began writing poetry in a lighter vein, the whimsical elements were carried over into his more series verse as his talent developed. His poetry is marked by both a precision of language and metaphysical depth, both harkening to the likes of such 17th-century poets as John Donne and George Herbert.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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