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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Special Australian Edition August 2023
The Book of Ruth, poems by Richard W. Halperin.
The Book of Ruth
Every day in my neighbourhood in Paris
I pass the house, unchanged as far as I
can tell, with which Edith Wharton closes
The Age of Innocence. Her protagonist,
a middle-aged American man,
has been invited to that house
because his young years await him there.
He decides not to enter. In Wharton,
an entire novel can be written about
‘decides.’ She did not admire Henry James
for nothing. The man does not enter because
his young years await him there.
I must call this poem ‘The Book of Ruth.’
Artists are in the grip of something.
One of my former bosses was Icelandic.
He had studied with Piaget. All the languages
he spoke, he spoke elegantly and kindly.
As a boy in Iceland, he had been a shepherd.
I listen, often, to Klemperer conducting
the Philharmonia in Beethoven’s Sixth,
especially the dance of the shepherds.
The producer of the sessions said to Klemperer
that he was conducting it too slowly,
that the movement was marked allegro.
Klemperer responded, You will get used
to it, the shepherds are dancing,
if the music is faster they can’t dance.
In his hands, the music is as fragile as lace
and as earthy as earth, as oil is poured on
my head and a table set before me in
the presence of my enemies.
I am a city chap, but my soul isn’t.
And if the universe, when it came to be,
smelt of new-mown grass?
How do I know it didn’t?
A Thing of Beauty
as I have this morning, the opening lines
of ‘Endymion’ and Keats’s wonderful human
Preface, does me good, saves my life again
and we’ll skip why. Especially, in his
Preface: ‘The imagination of a boy is healthy,
and mature imagination of a man is healthy;
but there is a space of life between, in which
the soul is in a ferment, the character
undecided, the way of life uncertain . . . . ‘
Keats thinks that he is in the in-between
stage; that, if he lives longer, he will reach
imagination that is healthy and mature.
My dear chap, no one does.
A Certain Generation
© Richard W. Halperin
Richard W. Halperin’s poems are published by Salmon/Cliffs of Moher and by Lapwing/Belfast. Salmon has listed Selected & New Poems, Introduction by Joseph Woods, for Autumn 2023; it will draw upon poems from Mr. Halperin’s four Salmon and sixteen Lapwing collections, on the occasion of his 80th birthday. A new Lapwing, The Painted Word, will also appear in 2023.